In between intense talks of the driver shortage in North America and the debates on how best to recruit new drivers into the industry there has been people making waves on Entry Level Driver Training. This has been a topic of discussion for many years but as the shortage continues there has been increased talk around training in the trucking industry and what should be done about new drivers in order to properly prepare them for their trucking career.
Currently, 50% of drivers are without formal training. This idea of being able to step into a driver job without any sort of training is one of the factors affecting the perception many people have of the trucking industry. The way to end the driver shortage is to, quite simply, recruit more drivers; specifically young people looking for work. In order to recruit these younger individuals into these roles the way the trucking industry operates and markets itself must change. One major way to do this is through entry level driver training. Mandating training for all drivers means that the trucking industry can takes steps to be seen as a skilled trade. This would mean people would see the industry as a type of work where you must have a set of skills and a foundation of courses and tests behind you in order to succeed. Right now the perception is that anyone can do this job, and many people feel driving a truck is just a stepping stone until a better career comes along. Altering the skill set required would help to change the frame of mind in a way that says not everyone can do this job, you need to have skills, which could make driving a higher career choice in the minds of young people.
Entry level driver training also provides a piece of mind to the public that the men and women operating large trucks on the road have the proper skills and training in order to keep everyone safe. Safety combined with proper training can lead to a better public opinion of the industry which can lead to a solution to the driver shortage that plagues North America.
As of right now there is no time frame set for mandatory training for new drivers. There have been talks of enforcing a 200 hour minimum training course but no confirmation of this has been made.
Ray Haight wrote a fantastic article for Truck News in which he proposed two solutions to the driver training problem. They are as follows
1. A minimum hourly based certified course
This would mean that students must complete a certain number of hours learning all elements of driving included but not limited to: backing up, driving at night, vehicle inspection, etc. in order to become proficient enough to drive a truck. This solution works because the students are guaranteed exposure to all necessary elements they need to be strong drivers. The cons of this approach are that it would be more time consuming and expensive to train these students as the training programs would be much longer and more in-depth than the programs available now.
2. Competency based training system
This type of training program would move the student through the program at the pace in which the student is able to comprehend the required skills. There would be no set amount of hours, the requirement would be that the student is able to complete the skills exam by the time they are done training. The benefits of this type of system would be that the students with higher aptitude around heavy equipment would move through the training faster. This would be less costly because drivers could enter into the workplace much quicker. The negatives of this type of program is that the skills assessment is left to the discretion of a government official with little time to test the driver’s skills. In addition to this, many private driving schools tend to move people through the program quickly in order to make more money even though those students do not meet the required skill set to operate a truck safely.
There are pros and cons to both of these types of driver training. Ray Haight suggests a fusion of both programs may be the solution. Since there has been no indication of how officials will decide to mandate the entry level driver training it is left up to everyone else to speculate as to how this problem will be solved, with only the necessity of a driver training program staring at us and indicating a solution must be found sooner rather than later.