Should driver safety be a trades training issue?

By Jonathon Harp

I read an article in the U.S. industry publication Plumbing & Mechanical about concerns from contractor companies that young people coming into the trades often do not have their driver’s licences or have not had any formal driver training. This has created the need for driver safety training in trades and technical schools and in-house training offered by HVAC and plumbing contractors.

As I digested this article, I wondered if this was also a problem in Canada. The U.S. data on licensing from its Bureau of Transportation Statistics showed licensing of teen drivers has dropped more than 17 per cent between 1997 and 2020.

While national data in Canada on this subject is scarce, data from two provinces confirmed a similar trend; in Alberta between 1994 and 2014, the number of young people between 15 and 24 who have a driver’s licence has dropped 20 per cent, and in Quebec from 2014 to 2019, young people between 16 and 20 who have a driver’s licence has dropped 30 per cent.

This supports recent thinking that a significant portion of the younger generation seem to have a totally different attitude towards driving and owning a vehicle than older generations. Uber and the other popular services that have either offered “taxiing” at a lower cost or rent vehicles by the hour are viewed as a much better option than the ongoing costs associated with purchasing and maintaining a vehicle; particularly in an urban area.

According to the article, in the U.S., contractor concerns centre around two issues: young people entering the trades without any driving experience or licensing, and those who are licensed having little or no experience with larger vans and trucks typically used by contracting firms.

Contractors are finding that newer trades people do not have the experience needed to handle large vehicles. Things such as height and width of the vehicle create unfamiliar challenges particularly in downtown locations. Solutions to these challenges vary from having new employees familiarizing themselves with company vehicles on short runs for the first few weeks of employment, to collaborating with training providers on driver safety training.

The article also indicated that companies can experience “a higher risk of employee safety to and from the jobsite than on the jobsite.” Trades and technical training providers in the U.S. are implementing driver safety training programs that cover issues such as distracted driving, pre-trip inspections and “hands on” training in actual vehicles.

So what is happening in Canada in this area? We contacted a number of people in the Canadian insurance, training and contractor sectors and unfortunately received little or no feedback.

So what about our contractor readers? Is driver safety an issue for your company? If so, what are you doing about it? Is it becoming a liability issue for the company?

Send us your thoughts on this matter at [email protected].





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