Trucking businesses across northern Ontario feel left out of the province’s free training program

New program trains more women and newcomers to grow Ontario’s trucking industry

Trucking businesses in northern Ontario say they’re feeling left out of a $1.3 million plan by the provincial government to increase the number of drivers.

The Bridging the Gap in Trucking program, announced early Tuesday by the Ontario government and the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, offers free training to women and newcomers during an ongoing staffing shortage.

But its first cohort for free in-person training will take place in Kitchener-Waterloo, the Greater Toronto Area, London and Ottawa.

“To me, it’s hopeless,” said John McKevitt, owner of McKevitt Trucking and has an understaffed crew of 15 drivers in Sudbury, Ont.

“That would help us if they turned out a good product. But I don’t see why we should be discriminated against in northern Ontario, anywhere. There’s lots of trucking up in northern Ontario. So why shouldn’t you be given new drivers here,” he added.

Participants will be given 200 hours of training with in-vehicle and virtual reality instruction to perform driving manoeuvres and maintenance.

The program also offers incentives including a $400 weekly allowance, equipment coverage and childcare support as participants train. 

According to the Ontario government, 6,100 more truck drivers are needed for services across the province.

“You have to make it an enticing environment,” said Scott White, finance manager for Robert Rubino and Sons Trucking in Porcupine, Ont.

Despite participants getting training from southern Ontario, drivers shouldn’t learn how to safely navigate through Sudbury for the first time on the job, he added.

“Any time they’re gonna invest in the industry, it’s a great thing. But it also isn’t easy to hire people that don’t have a lot of experience,” White said.

Free training in Sudbury, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie would help localize important safety rules before it’s too late, McKevitt added.

“It’s coming out of my tax dollar too in Ontario. Why are they not giving the people in Sudbury a chance to learn and benefit from this?”