Ontario MPP questions truck driver certification

An Ontario opposition MPP is raising concerns about truck driver training practices – particularly fleets that train and test their own employees – following a series of crashes in Northwestern Ontario.

“We experienced another dreadful weekend of carnage on our highways,” Lise Vaugeois (NDP – Thunder Bay – Superior North) said in the provincial legislature on March 21. “Two homes had been damaged by a truck in Beardmore, a snow plow driver died near Ignace, and Hwy. 17 was closed for 12 hours after two tractor-trailers collided and one driver was killed.”

In a related interview with CBC News, she cited a 2019 report by the Ontario Auditor General that questioned why drivers licensed through Ontario’s Driver Certification Program (DCP) had a higher passing rate than those licensed through DriveTest centers.

“We found that between 2014/15 and 2018/19 drivers tested by carriers had a pass rate of 95% compared with just 69% at DriveTest centers. However, 25% of the 106 carriers that test their own drivers ranked among the worst 1% of all carriers for at fault collision performance,” the Auditor General reported at the time.

“There are also companies, probably the ones with their own schools attached to them, and they are not giving drivers the preparation that they need,” Vaugeois told CBC.

‘Most robust’ commercial training

Transport Minister Caroline Mulroney responded in the legislature that Ontario has the “most robust” commercial licensing system in Canada.

“That doesn’t mean that it’s enough,” Mulroney said. “We are continuing to review our commercial licensing process to make sure that we’re strengthening regulations, to make sure our truck drivers have the training they need when they get out on the road – for themselves as well as for all drivers on Ontario’s roads.”

The province was the first Canadian jurisdiction to establish mandatory entry-level training (MELT), requiring at least 103.5 hours of training before being tested for a Class A licence.

‘An integral element’

That requirement has on its own helped to streamline the number of entities that participate in the Ontario Driver Certification Program, says Brian Patterson, president and CEO of the Ontario Safety League, which offers training for the signing authorities themselves.

“Fire departments used to take people with a G licence right off the street and train them up to the D level for a fire truck – but focus only on the fire truck.”

The program that remains is “an integral element of how things are being done,” he adds, referring to the way it can reduce bottlenecks at DriveTest centers.

“There would be value in having a ‘DCP light’ that only handles renewals and administrative issues,” he says. But Patterson also stresses the need for the ministry to invest resources to effectively audit the operations.

“That job is the ministry’s job, and they don’t have anyone to do it.”

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