Little or no training standards for truck driver-instructors

In the June issue of Over the Road, I talked about the pitfalls of expecting driver-instructors to teach new drivers when they are given little to no training to do so. When I discussed the article with my colleagues, we came to the conclusion that I made a good point of explaining the importance for this type of training but it fell short of explaining HOW this could and should be approached. It’s simple… currently there are little or no standards for trainers of truck drivers. In fact, when it comes to trades training, there is an assumption that knowing how to do the job automatically qualifies someone to be responsible for training new workers. I decided to conduct a little research to find out what’s out there when it comes to training the trainer.

Currently, there is a patchwork of courses and standards in Ontario for training instructors. This trend seems to apply to most sectors including the trades. Some Ministries have identified some basic standards for a Train-the-trainer program and some go as far as listing the content of the training. But the training providers of these programs do not have to be certified or registered. Only the Ministry of Labour has created Certification Training Provider Standards for the delivery of a few of its legislated priorities, where only approved trainers can deliver the approved training programs.

I also researched the training provider requirements in the College of Trades and I cannot find a minimum training standard for trainers. The expectations appear to be that the apprentice will learn on the job and be under the supervision of a qualified journeyperson. I believe it is assumed that the work experience and skill of the trainer determines his or her qualifications to teach the apprentice. The best practice for teaching a trade is on-the-job training. Although there are merits to learning this way, and it should be included in a training program, there are also many drawbacks.

If an employer identifies the need to provide training for their instructors, they must resort to a generic Train-the-Trainer that is offered in the marketplace. Colleges and private trainers offer a one to three day course that focuses mostly on classroom preparation and presentations.

They vary in course content and price. There are no standards for these providers. Usually no attention is given to teaching techniques for delivering practical lessons such as truck driving.

And what are the training provider requirements for the trucking sector? And how does an employer or truck driving school ensure their instructors are qualified? Once more, the minimum standard is mostly based on work experience. The Private Career Colleges Act states that an instructor must have minimum work experience in the vocation of truck driver or have a combination of vocational experience coupled with some level of education. When it comes to the employer, the onus is on the employer to ensure the person hired to teach drivers is competent, has the skills to do the job and has knowledge of the Health and Safety Act. There are no minimum skills and knowledge standards required to become a driver- instructor. But what I find the most interesting is that, in Ontario, there are no minimum training standards to become a truck driver-instructor but there are mandatory training standards for a car driving- instructor.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute’s (PTDI) instructor standards do go a step further. It sets a minimum of three years work experience and classroom instructors must provide documentation of instructional skills or teaching experience. In order to maintain certification of a school’s program, the school has to adhere to an on-going staff development training plan that includes training activities that will improve their instructors’ teaching competencies. The plan must also provide supervision and conduct evaluations. All of this training must be documented and proof is submitted annually. This is a higher standard. But there are only three schools in Canada, which are all in Ontario, that have PTDI certified truck driver training programs.

Over the years, 5th Wheel Training Institute has recognized the need for formal instruction to prepare its driver-instructors. We set our training standards and developed curriculum to meet the objectives. It is focused on giving our instructors, who were truck drivers, the tools to teach the hands-on learner. As of today, we are the only Private Career College in Ontario that has an MTCU approved Train-the-trainer Program.

As we get closer to the looming Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) standards deadline of July 1, 2017, along with so many other training providers, we are preparing to deliver a program that will meet the standards to help individuals become truck drivers. I am also hoping that the Ministry of Transportation or the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities will then set standards for training driver-instructors who teach these programs. I believe it would be the next logical piece to making Ontario’s roads safer.

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