Higher Truck Driver Training Standards… Bring it On!

Last November, I spent a few weeks in Poland to attend a conference and to visit the country. Throughout our stay, we were accompanied by Rafael, a very competent professional driver. We had lots of time to get to know him. As an owner of a Private Career College, our discussions easily turned to driver training. I discovered that he was also a licensed commercial truck driver and bus driver. I was very interested in knowing the country’s standards concerning issuing a truck driver’s license. To my surprise, it’s mandatory in Poland to attend a driver training program before being tested by the regulatory body. But this concept is a very new phenomenon here in Canada; where Ontario will be the first province to legislate mandatory entry-level training for commercial truck drivers.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is preparing to release the standards by summer 2016 and training providers will have one year to develop a curriculum and obtain the necessary approvals. As our pragmatic business thinking kicks in, we all wonder how much this will cost and who is going to pay for training.
As we prepare for this new normal in Ontario, we need to reflect on the reality that comes with this decision and to accept the inevitable higher costs associated with implementing
this standard.

The province has stated that only private career colleges (PCC), colleges of applied arts and technology and recognized schools under the MTO’s driver certification program will be allowed to offer the new mandatory, entry-level training programs. Under the new law, drivers who do not complete the mandatory training course will not be permitted to take a Class A driving test and will not be able to work as a commercial driver. This should cut out the “licensing mills” that are currently operating throughout the province. It will also eliminate the option that the vast majority of potential truck drivers choose which is to get a Class AZ license without any training at all.

Currently, potential students can find training prices as low as $999 and as high as $10,000 for a truck driver training program. Why does it cost so little or so much? The simple answer is that you get what you pay for. The lower tuition fees are low simply because the students get less. But the better answer is to look at the real costs of operating a truck driver training school. 5th Wheel Training Institute has been delivering truck driver training programs for 30 years. To do it right, it costs money to operate a legitimate registered Private Career College that meets the standards.


The first step is the registration of the school and approval of programs. There are fees for registration, approvals of programs, annual premiums, audits and a mandatory training assurance fund. To add even more credibility to your programs, you can choose to have it certified by the internationally recognized Professional Truck Driver Training Institute (PTDI). Once more, you will pay for all the fees associated with this professional association.


The school must have a physical presence which includes classrooms, administrative offices and a shop for repairs and maintenance of trucks and trailers. The practice yard for driving and backing up will require several acres to conduct the training. It is not acceptable to use a shopping mall parking lot to train students to back a tractor-trailer combination.


The cost of one tractor-trailer combination can cost from $100,000 to $250,000. And the school will need more than one unit. A light duty shop must be equipped with tools and supplies to perform repairs and maintenance. The classrooms have to be equipped with technology, computers, desks, chairs and projectors in order to deliver the curriculum


Developing curriculum with all the teaching and learning aids is a long process that requires the expertise of an educator. In the September 1996 issue of Training & Development, author Karen White tells the reader that a good estimate is “40 to 100 hours of development for each hour of an instructor-led course.”


The school, its equipment, activities and people will have to be protected with suitable insurance and a comprehensive health and safety program that will ensure a safe and healthy work environment.


The school has a legal obligation to pay for storage of student records for 25 years and to pay a company to conduct follow-ups with graduates to report their success rate in finding employment. Documents, report cards and certificates have to be mailed to graduates.

Human Resources

Staffing the school with competent and dedicated employees is one key to the success of the training programs. This includes instructors, administration, management, mechanics and maintenance workers.

Maintenance, Repairs and Fuel

All infrastructure and equipment need regular maintenance and repairs. With the rising costs of fuel and hydro, it places a strain on expenses.

Advertising, Promotion and Sales

Without students, the school cannot function. With increasing competition from PCCs, community colleges and licensing mills, it becomes even more important to attract students. Much effort must be made through social media, print materials, videos, attendance at trade shows and career fairs to brand your school.

How does a PCC pay for all these expenses? The only source of revenue for the PCC is the tuition. Therefore, when a student attends a program with a tuition of $999 rather than $10,000, it is a given that there will be many shortfalls in the training. A training program that will meet the new standards set by MTO will require a significant investment. For 30 years, our school has been investing in our ability to deliver quality training programs. We applaud the Transportation Minister Steve Del Duca, for taking on this fundamental change to how truck drivers are being trained in Ontario. He is successfully consulting and working with the trucking industry’s stakeholders to make this happen. If the province is willing to adopt higher standards, all I can say is “Bring It On!”

Louise Philbin
Co-founder and Education Director
5th Wheel Training Institute
Haileybury, Ontario