CBC MARKETPLACE - Commercial Driver Licensing

Truck Tractor and TrailerCBC's Marketplace has produced a program on commercial driver licensing in Canada. Their driver earned his commercial driver's licence in Saskatchewan and then failed the test for the same licence category in Ontario. At issue is the varying level of skill necessary to obtain a commercial driver's licence across the provinces.

The Marketplace Blog supplemented the program with an article about fatal truck crashes in Canada that included a map. Unfortunately, that map is no longer available. My policing experience (now out of date) is that the majority of heavy vehicle collisions that do not involve only the commercial vehicle itself were caused by the light vehicle driver.

Professional drivers, according to Pro Trucker Magazine, have been lobbying government for a long time to make commercial driving a trade with comprehensive education and experience required in order to qualify. The provincial governments have not appeared receptive to the concept so far.


Great Episode

But....  I’m a big fan of Market Place, kudos to them for exposing such a brutal, heart wrenching story.  I can not read or watch anything related to this crash without a total meltdown and heavy heart.  

I am always annoyed at the Gov’t of the day who takes such a snails pace to correct a wrong. We give them the power and authority to ensure negligence isn’t repeated yet they do little too late. 

Good subject!

Interesting episode, though I don't care for the 'reality TV' aspect.

But his bad decision to turn left (which would have been fine in a 4 wheeler) across the path of the oncoming car was the dangerous action that ended that test.

Sad reversing skills, because he hasn't been shown how. But giving credit where it's due, he's learned to shift that Roadranger smoothly enough.

Both Ontario and BC have been the Canadian provincial leaders in standards and regulation and education, over the years. BC was the first province to bring in classification of license in 1973, along with mandatory Airbrake courses to get the necessary endorsement. And Ontario have very strong standards.

If I'm not mistaken, the Applicant was able to qualify (or not) for his Class 1 license in both Saskatchewan and Ontario by attending a Certified Driving School. No government test applying, only a Training Assessment Officer. But, entirely different standards in terms of training requirements and Road Test evaluation at the conclusion.

Here in BC, we used to allow certain Driver Training Schools to conduct courses that included a Certification test by a T.A.O. for higher class licenses, but I don't think it's allowed for private businesses except for Class 6 - Motorcycle. And by the way, a proper training course is definitely the way to go for getting a Class 6 or 8.

So I think it's insufficient to just mandate a minimum number of big rig training hours - after all, not everybody graduates from High School, and not everybody is equipped to drive these things - but to have an objective professional Driver Examiner conduct the Road Test.

Basically, standards for Road Testing - for any vehicle or license class - will shape the quality and quantity of the instruction provided by a DTS. If they're not training to a standard where the students generally pass, then they won't be in business too long. That said, mandating a minimum number of hours' training before being eligible to apply for the license isn't a bad idea.

I'm a Class 1 license holder, and a Class 4, 5, 7 Driving Instructor. I've been a Certified T.A.O. for both Class 4 Applicants and Driving Instructor Applicants, as well as an ICBC Driver Examiner for a couple of years.

If they want to improve things further in this province, I'd suggest the RCMP Highway Patrol hot shots leave the H.O.V. lane monitoring for a while, and start nailing truckers following too closely. That would be a big start, and an opportunity for them to earn their pay.

Oh wow, I wonder

If the commercial driving schools don't teach how to hook up a trailer, then how are there so many perfectly hooked-up tractor-trailer combinations zipping around? And if all the provinces agree on some new super stringent requirements Canada-wide will all the 51 states follow suite? And what requirements can even be implemented that could have prevented the Bronco's crash?

The driver pulled out from a STOP sign in-front of a bus loaded with people going 100km/h, there was already a Stop sign, even a red light. It was day-light, and the visibility was good and the sight lines allowed for the bus to be seen. Yet the driver pulled out when they should not have. This being their first unsupervised trip as a commercial trucker has nothing to do with the fact that they made a mistake of not looking (and/or seeing) both ways before crossing a street.

This is just an insult to everyone's intelligence with a hidden agenda to appeal for everybody's money, while using emotions.

Truckers learn to hook up their trailers on the job, its an integral part of the job, else they don't complete the job, don't get paid, and don't eat and thus they don't survive as truckers. Even if all the provinces agreed on some structured instruction requirements, the neighbors down south will still have full access to our roads, else Canada loses billions in trade. And I'm pretty certain that "look both ways before crossing the street" is taught to a person much before they ever decide to become a trucker.

But the hidden agenda is simple - make emotional appeals on the mistakes of the few to leverage the collective punishment on everybody, because its all about the money in the end; propositions that spur money flow always find the "support" of the seemingly bleeding hearts. That is why the victim's families and friends are being dragged out and paraded - so they can make sappy emotional statements about things they have little to no understanding of. And its uncouth to argue against the teary eyed common folk who are pleading for someone to do something... because any argument against them is automatically perceived as an insult to the memory of their lost loved ones. Just the knee-jerk reactions being monetized and weaponized against the victims themselves and everybody else.

And the instructors in Ontario (anywhere else for that matter) will always say that "its crazy" that other provinces don't mandate X number of hours (or more), just like most folk would say YES to a question: "Would you like more work and more MONEY for the same job, approved and mandated by the Gov with no hidden catches?".

The NK style 3-generation punishment doctrine is considered draconian, unfair, unconscionable and inhumane - but the "punish everyone" method practiced in Canada is in the same spirit in its unfairness, but less in its severity... So is that what makes it OK to punish the people that had nothing to do with the crime?

Country-wide higher trucked goods cost, higher start-up investment to become a trucker, higher employment costs to businesses, higher regulatory costs to businesses is the punishment being argued here all because a guy didn't look both ways before trucking across a street.

Incompetent Drivers

The driver pulled out from a STOP sign in-front of a bus loaded with people going 100km/h

is the punishment being argued here all because a guy didn't look both ways before trucking across a street.

Clearly the carnage at this crime scene hardly depicts either of the suggested scenarios.  To minimize the loss and grievous bodily harm of so many lives by this negligent driver is to insult the efforts to make change for the better.  

The fact is, this country, be it our own, have alot of terrible drivers.  We’ve been “educating” and teaching for years, why are they worse and not more competent?  We’ll always have those few bad eggs in any entity, but we need to minimize and manage those eggs more effectively. 

Being as you're asking

If the commercial driving schools don't teach how to hook up a trailer, then how are there so many perfectly hooked-up tractor-trailer combinations zipping around?

That's not how any decent commercial driving school operates! But the Saskatchewan DTS featured in the Marketplace piece was only providing a very minimal 16-hour training course to this driver (which they acknowledge is insufficient) so they're bound to cut corners somewhere.

This argues well for mandatory minimum training hours, as well as stringent testing standards, which is not what we're seeing in the Saskatchewan example. Heck, his '10-minute Circle Check' instruction (for want of a better word) couldn't possibly have included verifying that the Airbrake system was functioning properly with everything in adjustment (never mind properly checking all the lights, tires, fluids, emergency equipment, etc) - including verifying that that the trailer was properly hooked up to the Fifth Wheel. Pathetic.

And if all the provinces agree on some new super stringent requirements Canada-wide will all the 51 states follow suite?

51? (scratches head). Most unlikely, but legislating this is completely beyond the purview of our Federal Government. But what they can do is to set minimum standards for Canadian truckers, which in this case involves a certain amount of mandatory training before being able to apply for the C1 Driver License. It's a fundamental concept in many occupations. Just because you can fly a Cessna doesn't mean you get the keys to the Airbus.

With the transitional movement of all drivers across provincial and state boundaries, the authorities are fundamentally limited to requiring that a big rig driver has a Class 1 license from somewhere in Canada or the US when operating in our jurisdiction. It has to be that way, to allow the marketplace to function.

Drivers in north america are only allowed to hold one driver license, from where they live. This law was brought in some years ago to prevent truckers, when pulled over by cops or at the scales, to choose which license they presented.

Meanwhile, Provinces in Canada set their own rules in terms of reciprocal licensing; for instance, a Class 4 Unrestricted driver from Alberta can't swap their license for the BC equivalent without a practical test (which tells you what we think of their standards) and similarly, a Class 1 driver from Saskatchewan can't swap his/her license for the equivalent in Ontario unless they have acquired 2 years' safe driving experience with that license.

Truckers learn to hook up their trailers on the job, its an integral part of the job, else they don't complete the job, don't get paid, and don't eat and thus they don't survive as truckers.

Really? They learn to hook up their trailers on the job? I think that will depend on who they're applying to work for. If a prospective employee doesn't have the fundamentals down, and a decent amount of experience, they won't hire them. They will also, typically, mentor their new drivers with seasoned ones who can increase their skills and safety. 

A Class 1 driver is highly task-loaded, particularly in heavy traffic or tight maneuvering situations. There is a great potential for error due to ignorance and inexperience. 

Meanwhile, the economy is strong and that means that truckers are busier than ever, with thousands of new drivers being added each year.  And it's new drivers that are over-represented in crashes, at every license level.

So it only makes sense to demand either/or more training hours behind the wheel to be eligible for the Practical Test, or a much more stringent and lengthy testing procedure to get the license.

This Marketplace item (for all its faults) was about the higher crash rates amongst the least experienced, to my mind, and how to tackle this problem - which certainly isn't new. I recall horrible crashes in Kamloops and Horseshoe Bay in the 90's that were directly attibutable to ignorance on the part of the inexperienced driver.


The provincial governments  have been consistently resistant to suggestions that commercial drivers licensing needs to involve more instruction and hands-on training before drivers are licensed to go solo out on the highway.

I have written before, about a guy in town receiving his class 1 with no coupling/uncoupling, no backing up, no highway driving, and he couldn’t remember how to do a pre-trip. I wouldn’t let him drive my wheelbarrow across the street yet my friends and neighbors will have to meet him pulling a 53 foot triaxle up the Pacific Coast Highway.

The North American Truckers Guild under the direction of Larry James Hall has lobbied the government for quite a number of years to change truck driving to a professional trade,  as opposed to it being considered what it is today and that’s unskilled labour . A trade designation would mean a graduated license, with higher GVW’s and/or trailer combinations being “earned”, by testing a drivers abilities.There is  no room for a driver to figure it out as he goes along, especially here in B C with the allowable gross vehicle weight and our terrain.

Little attention was given to the Guild’s efforts.

After a tragedy like the Humbolt team bus, suddenly government officials are scurrying around looking like they are serving the public interest, and promises are made concerning root causes, and perceived outcomes.

Ontario is one of the first to actually move (in a very cautious way) toward making a change in the criteria for obtaining a class 1. I have been a firm believer in making a Class 1 license tough to obtain, (it has to be earned, not just thrown out to everyone who shows the slightest interest in it. That isn’t how it is for pilots, Captains, brain surgeons, dentists, etc. Etc.) and I applaud their efforts, as feeble as they are.

I think Cracker Jack should be outlawed in Canada, because that is a poor place to find a Class 1 driver’s license.


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