MISSISSAUGA, ON — Industry experts at the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario’s (TTSAO) annual conference agree – the introduction of Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT), effective this July, is going to shake up driver training.
“We’re going to see fundamental changes,” said Rolf VanderZwaag, president of Techni-Com and manager of maintenance and technical issues for the Ontario Trucking Association.
“The tests are going to get tougher, and I think we’re going to see a lot of unhappy faces come July,” said VanderZwaag, adding that it’s going to be a different world for students at Drive Test centers after July 1.
“What we’re going to get rid of is the notion that a Class A licence makes you a truck driver,” VanderZwaag continued, adding that MELT will better prepare would-be truckers.
“MELT is going to cut off the bottom end, the bottom feeders,” he said, adding that programs will educate about more than just driving the truck, and focus on workplace culture and provide students with more of the support they require.
“If drivers are poorly paid, poorly trained and they say ‘Don’t get into this job, don’t work for this company’, we are doing a disservice to the industry,” VanderZwaag said.
Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, said he agreed with VanderZwaag, adding that the industry needs to raise the standard.
“We don’t have a shortage of people in the Class A licence. There’s a lot of people who have it and don’t use it,” he said.
Millian said a lot of drivers don’t remain in the industry because of misconceptions and lack of research.
“What happens is they invest that little bit of money, and were told there was a shortage of drivers,” he explained, adding that many won’t be picked up by employers because they completed substandard training.
“It hurts the image of the profession,” he said. “People don’t know the full story.”
Millian said he hopes to see things like MELT extended to the other licence classes as well.
Garth Pitzel, director of safety and driver development with Bison Transport, said there isn’t a driver shortage in general, but that there is a professional driver shortage.
“In 2015, 42% of the drivers hired didn’t meet our driver criteria,” Pitzel said. The fleet addresses the gaps through an extensive entry-level training program of its own, offering 13 weeks of in-cab training with an instructor.
David Goruk, risk services specialist for Northbridge Insurance, said that while the MELT program is a good step forward, it still doesn’t meet the same standard as some of the more qualified training programs out there.
“The good schools that are out there are already exceeding that (MELT) program,” he said, referring to those that already exceed the 103 hours of training to be required under MELT.
Goruk said there are some aspects of driver training that are not touched on enough — like trip planning and border crossings — and suggested that carriers could benefit from better internal training of their own.