Commercial Truck Driver Training

I was recently at an industry meeting which brought together several carriers and the TTSAO.  TTSAO stands for Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario.  At the meeting the main topic of conversation was “MELT”.  Yes, another acronym and it stands for “Minimum Entry Level Training” for truck drivers. This is a new initiative that the government is working on and it will be setting some minimum standards for the truck training industry.

During the meeting the topic of voluntary apprenticeship program for truck drivers came up. Many of the carriers present were not yet using this program and there were several reasons given for the lack of participation.  The main reasons are: some carriers didn’t know about it; some carriers believe the paperwork is too onerous and therefore not worth it and a few don’t want the government knowing about their business.  Several of the carriers did not know of the $5000.00 tax credit that can be obtained from the government.  Most didn’t know that a driver can apply for another $2000.00 for themselves.

Money – What an incentive!   So the often asked question is: how can my company attract newly licensed drivers?  Wouldn’t $2,000 into your drivers’ pocket help in the attraction?

Every trucking company that I work with is trying to get more and better qualified drivers. They want to grow their fleet, even in this economy. Yes, my clients all want to grow.

They are always telling me that they can’t hire drivers. My clients are generally less than 100 truck fleets and at the meeting that I was at, these fleets were all over the 100+ truck mark and they are having the same problem. They just can’t hire enough good, well trained drivers.

The purpose of this article is to let companies know that there is money available for both the trucking companies and for newly licensed drivers. Yes, there are stipulations that go with the money and there is paperwork and hoops to jump through, but I’m one that believes it is worth it – for many reasons.

First, we should be training and welcoming the new driver into our beloved industry. We should be welcoming the driver very, very warmly. We need them and want them to stay with us. Let’s build some loyalty with the driver.   We should also be trying to get existing drivers to take on the challenge of training and coaching new drivers.

Today we definitely don’t have enough coaches and especially female coaches or mentors. We have women entering our industry and a real challenge is finding female trainers as the training involves spending several days together in the truck on a long trip. How does your company handle the mixed couple situation?

I often hear that the insurance companies won’t let carriers hire a newbie. Well I know that point is just wrong unless you have insurance issues within your company like a bad insurance record.  You can hire the newbie but you have to plan to “finish the new drivers”.  All of the truck driving schools in attendance at this meeting agreed that the carriers need to have a finishing program for the new driver.

It is important that the trucking company have someone qualified to do the training. All of the schools in attendance have a “coaching course” for this very purpose. Although this is not mandatory, you need to prove that you did your due diligence and if something should go wrong, that the drivers have been properly trained.

Finally, how do you go about welcoming the new drivers to your company? First, get the coach ready by extending training to the coach. Then get the documentation ready as you need good training records to prove what training you did with the new driver. You could advertise that you do take on the newly licensed drivers. I know, you will be swamped with applicants so you need to have a great phone manner and response so that you can immediately weed out the ones you don’t want to interview. Develop a close relationship with your local TTSAO School so that you get the best applicants from the school (TTSAO schools have standards for training and the schools are regularly audited by the Association to make sure that they meet or exceed the teaching standards).  Discuss your program with your insurance company and let them know what you are doing. They will support you and quite likely will have some great suggestions for you. Lastly, apply and receive the $5000.00 tax credit and help the student apply and get their $2000.00.

This is a really simple plan on paper but not so simple to execute effectively. If you need help or would like to discuss this further, please get in touch with me. This is a real passion of mine as we need drivers, and we need to get them started in our awesome industry the correct way.

Stay safe.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.