In a recent meeting with OTA President David Bradley, Premier Kathleen Wynne agreed that action should be taken to address the problem of a shortage of qualified truck drivers in Ontario.
The Premier discussed her recent tour of Eastern Ontario where she heard first-hand that even in that economically challenged part of the province companies are having a difficult time finding properly trained, professional drivers.
The meeting prompted Bradley to write a letter to Brad Duguid, Minister of Training Colleges and Universities about the issue and call for mandatory entry level driver training to be introduced.
“The trucking industry plays an essential economic role. It could also be part of the solution to the high level of unemployment amongst young people and displaced workers. However, (Wynne and I) also discussed the fact that in order to operate a heavy truck safely and productively – in other words to be employable – requires a higher level of entry level skills training today than ever before.”
Bradley explained that although some truck driver training schools provide excellent entry level driver training, overall the quality of skills training currently available is inconsistent and too often inferior, “with the standard of training provided predicated on how many dollars the prospective student driver has in their wallet, not what is required to be considered for employment by all but the most irresponsible carriers or driver agencies.”
Bradley attributed the low assessment to a lack of adequate funding sources; a class A licence test that is too easy to challenge and pass; two ministries involved – MTCU and MTO – leading to inconsistent approaches; and a multiplicity of standards and curricula but a lack of uptake/awareness/buy-in.
“What has been somewhat lost in all of this is what the trucking industry — the ultimate customer of the training sector’s output — wants and needs in terms of driver training,” said Bradley, adding that the trucking industry, to be fair, is a fragmented business and “shares in the responsibility for not enunciating its requirements sooner and therefore allowing the current situation to arise.”
Under mandatory entry level driver training, a prospective driver would have to complete a training program that meets an industry-approve standard before challenging the Class A license test – a key recommendation of the 2012 report from the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage.
“Mandatory entry level training is essential if we are going to address the training quality issues that confront the industry. And, without the industry’s ability to attract young people who are increasingly turning to the trades as a career choice will be severely constrained,” Bradley said.
Over the next month, CTA, OTA and the other provincial trucking associations, along with our sectoral council, Trucking HR Canada, plan to embark on a proposed three-year project to be funded in part by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) to lay the foundations for mandatory entry level training for truck drivers by updating existing National Occupational Standards, supporting curriculum development, and exploring various accreditation models.
Since jurisdiction over vocational training resides with the provinces, Bradley says it is imperative that OTA has the Ministry’s support for this initiative.