New truckers in Canada aren’t being skilled properly sufficient. How can we repair that?

The Present10:44Alarm bells over truck driving coaching

Twenty years in the past, you’d discover trucker Jacques Picotte pushing his limits — driving 16 hours straight, with solely water and a bag of chips within the cab earlier than resting at a pit cease.

Now, he is a truck driving teacher at School Boreal in Timmins, Ont. And he is proud to have constructed a repute as one in all its hardest academics — although there’s wider strain to coach up and approve licences as rapidly as potential to deal with the trucker scarcity.

“We want faculties that take satisfaction of their coaching and put out a greater driver — that is plain and easy,” he instructed Concepts‘ Tom Howell within the radio documentary The Approach of the Trucker.

He isn’t the one one. The Insurance coverage Bureau of Canada (IBC) launched a report earlier this month saying equally: that Canada wants extra and higher coaching for truck drivers — and that new drivers who have not acquired ample coaching are making the nation’s roads much less protected. 

Driving has change into riskier over time, Liam McGuinty, IBC’s vice-president of technique, instructed The Present’s Matt Galloway. Conversations between the bureau, insurance coverage corporations and truck drivers spurred the most recent report.

“We’re hoping the report serves as a little bit of a wake-up name on, at the beginning, insufficient coaching,” he stated.

Requires coaching standardization

McGuinty stated there’s been an alarming pattern in each the frequency and severity of collisions on the roads.

The report, launched April 9, discovered that drivers with much less coaching — and particularly these with lower than three years of expertise — have been extra more likely to be concerned in collisions that additionally ended up in expensive insurance coverage claims, in comparison with these with extra coaching and expertise.

Jacques Picotte trains new truck drivers at a Timmins school for 4 weeks earlier than testing them. In the event that they move the take a look at, they get the ‘AZ’ license required to drive large vans like this one. (Tom Howell/CBC)

It beneficial higher and extra constant coaching at truck driving faculties throughout Canada, the adoption of a graduated licensing system, and elevated use of telematics — expertise resembling digital logging units — that gather priceless information on drivers’ behaviour or efficiency on the highway.

It additionally famous that Obligatory Entry-Degree Coaching (MELT), a loosely outlined minimal quantity for coaching for all truck drivers, has been carried out in some provinces, however not all of Canada.

These minimal requirements have been established in response to the 2018 Humboldt Broncos crash, the place a collision between the junior hockey workforce’s bus and a semi-trailer killed 16 individuals.

MELT program

Whereas specialists have applauded the implementation of MELT necessities, many say that is solely step one to forging the most secure potential truck driver workforce.

Its requirements are solely meant to implement a compulsory minimal of coaching, and relying on the province, may solely require a minimal variety of hours behind the wheel earlier than qualifying for a licence.

“In some jurisdictions, that is as little as 100 hours,” McGuinty stated.

McGuinty beneficial that MELT necessities ought to be mixed with additional coaching regimens — resembling paying a mentor driver to accompany new drivers for a time period.

“These entry-level coaching applications have been by no means designed to completely put together drivers for working heavy vans in all situations. They only do not cowl that full vary of competencies required to be, , what we might say is road-ready.”

Considered one of MELT’s weaknesses is that it is carried out provincially — however truck drivers sometimes journey throughout the nation and even the continent, stated Alexander Crizzle, affiliate professor on the College of Saskatchewan. Which means they could encounter vastly totally different driving situations than these wherein they have been initially skilled.

“You may get skilled in Nova Scotia, however be driving within the Northwest Territories in extreme ice and snow situations, within the mountains, et cetera,” stated Crizzle, who’s additionally the director of the college’s Driving Analysis and Simulation Laboratory.

Image of a highway surrounded by snowy plains and trees, with some bright orange pylons marking risky curves on the road.
The freeway from Sudbury to Timmins, Ont., has some dangerous spots for truckers who should use each inch of their lane to deal with curves within the highway. However not each truck driver could also be skilled to deal with all of the forms of harmful highway situations throughout Canada, says Alexander Crizzle. (Tom Howell/CBC)

One “constant program throughout Canada,” he stated, may higher put together new drivers for the challenges. He additionally stated digital driving simulations may assist bridge the hole, though he famous that they might not fully replicate driving in real-life difficult highway situations.

Geoff Wooden, senior vice-president of coverage on the Canadian Trucking Alliance, stated most of the report’s suggestions are being carried out to various levels within the nation, whereas broadly agreeing with its total name to motion.

“You already know, we are able to all the time enhance… There’s a whole lot of good work that is already been completed,” Wooden stated.

Trucker scarcity in Canada

The decision for improved trucking comes amid a years-long scarcity of truck drivers in Canada, that some business watchers speculate may have fuelled a race to certify as many drivers as potential.

The nation had over 20,000 vacant driver positions final yr, famous a 2023 white paper by PwC Canada, with that determine predicted to rise to 30,000 vacancies. In February 2023, then-transport minister Omar Alghabra introduced a federal funding of as much as $46.3 million in direction of truck driver coaching and recruitment efforts.

The paper cited an growing old workforce, demand for greater pay and issue attracting youth and girls to the career as the primary causes for the scarcity.

LISTEN | Concepts producer Tom Howell visits a trucking college in northern Ontario:

Concepts53:59The Approach of the Trucker

A truck which has just collided with an overpass is seen on a road, with a red payload behind it.
Over-height automobiles have struck overpasses in B.C. 35 instances since 2021, based on information from that province. (Miller Capilano Freeway Providers/Twitter)

As for Picotte, the trucker turned driving teacher, lots of his current college students have come to Canada from abroad nations like India, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. Native trucking corporations in Timmins, he stated, may even pay their $6,000 tuition — in trade, these college students comply with fill a job emptiness with the corporate as soon as they’re certified.

“The school had a nasty repute earlier than I got here in. You pay the $6,000, you get a licence,” he stated. “After which individuals began to not be comfortable once I began failing [students].”

Picotte emphasizes one perception in his educating above all, apparent although it might sound: An 18-wheeler will not be a small automobile, and shouldn’t be pushed like one, even when it comes geared up with an automated transmission and cruise management.

“You are still an 80,000-pound missile, proper? That it’s important to maintain always.”

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