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The Next Steps

by Jim Park

So, where do you go from here? Over the past six issues, we've looked at a few of the industry's career options for drivers, some possibly right under your own carrier's roof. We've looked at dispatch, sales, safety and compliance, driver training, and others, all careers beyond the wheel where your time as a driver would prove to be of value. This article, part seven of Beyond the Wheel, is the last of the series and it examines what you'll need in the way of training and further education to make that career change happen. And where to go to get it.

If there's any great difficulty in switching careers in mid-stream, it's that you'll need to learn how to do the new job. You've been working around people who are already doing it, so you'll have a good understanding of what the new role might entail, but you likely won't know the fine points. Worse yet, you likely won't be able to find too many courses, anywhere, called 'Trucking 202' where you can simply round out what you already know. With the exception of dispatch, there just aren't many programs that offer you the training you'll need. You'll have to get what you can, where you can, in a piece-meal fashion.

The other difficulty, of course, could well be convincing the boss that you're capable of making the switch in the first place and then working effectively in a new capacity. We can't help you much there, but we can say that the very first step is showing an obvious interest in how things work elsewhere in your company. Whether you intend staying there or not, ask questions and be a general bother, especially if your goal is to end up away from the trucks themselves and away from what you know best, like moving to sales.

Dispatch training, by the way, is a fairly recent but long overdue phenomenon, but it's catching on like wildfire. Industry analysis revealed that poor dispatcher/driver relations was a leading cause in a driver's decision to switch carriers. Recognizing the need, the industry is developing training programs to improve the situation. By most accounts, it seems to be working, and the training is becoming easier to find, but what about the knowledge you might need to become a successful safety and compliance manager? Where does you go to learn about the Highway Traffic Act, for example? And what about hours of service? Where do you go to develop the skills needed to audit logbooks, prepare a safety and compliance plan, or teach others how to drive trucks?

Many educational resources are out there (see the sidebar story, Training and Education Resources) but you may need to take a few steps in the interim. Many of the programs are available on-line, or through some correspondence medium, but chances are, you'll need some basic computer skills to complete the curriculum. If your computer skills are a little rusty, or even non-existent, you can apply to any high school or community college offering continuing adult learning. Some offer the courses in one- or two-day seminar formats, while others require a six- or eight-week commitment of one night a week. Given the challenges of getting home for appointments, it may be best to opt for the seminar format. Many computer stores and specialty shops offer courses like this as well, and may do so on a more flexible schedule.

On-line and correspondence courses offer the needed flexibility for working truck drivers, but they also demand a little more discipline. Classroom training obviously requires a presence, and that can be a problem.

Before you jump right in and start signing up for programs or courses, step back and consider what you're about to do. You're about to open the door on a new future, new career possibilities and a big change in your life. Consider what you might want to move into, then consider how the new career will fit your lifestyle, earnings, and professional needs. Then start asking questions.

  • Will your current employer contribute to the cost of the training with the intention of bringing you inside?
  • What are the job prospects in the field of your choice?
  • Is there room for expansion and further career development?
  • Is this something you really want to do?

After you've chosen a field of study, be prepared for an awakening. You're going to have to evaluate what you think you know versus what you actually know, and compare that to what you need to know. It'll be a difficult time, and you'll be confronted with all the knowledge gaps, and then the reversal of perspectives from driver to manager, but it's not an impossible transition. In fact, most who've gone through the process have emerged the better for it.

There's a world of opportunity out there, just beyond the wheel, but the great thing about transplanting yourself from the cab to the office is that you can build on your on-road experience and draw from that to do a better job in your new field. And, whenever there's a hot load that's really got to go, you're still a licensed driver. You'll welcome the chance to get out of the office and back to the real world.

Training and Education Resources

Alberta Safety Council. Edmonton, Alta. ASC offers the Professional Driver Improvement Instructor/Trainer program for experienced drivers wanting to become instructor/trainers. Contact ASC at 780/428-7555 or, www.safetycouncil.ab.ca/

Canadian Automotive and Trucking Institute. Cambridge, Ont. The Trucking Operations Specialist (TOS) program is designed to develop skills in three industry-specific areas to prepare students to work effectively as Driver Managers Dispatchers, Fleet Maintenance Administrators or, Safety and Compliance directors. Contact C.A.T.I. at 519/220-1650 or, www.canadianautomotive.com

Canadian Association of Fleet Supervisors. Aldergrove, B.C. CAFS offers a number of courses relating to safety and compliance. Contact CAFS at 604/856-3662 or www.cafs.ca

Coastal Training Consultants Ltd. Coquitlam, B.C. Coastal Training is a fully certified professional driver and equipment operator training company offering standard and custom programs, including, air brakes theory certification, and refresher courses, Class one to three driver training - theory and practical, and a Professional Driver Re-Alignment Course. See www.coastaltraining.ca

Canadian Association of Supply Chain and Logistics Management. CASCL offers a listing of SCL-accredited schools offering logistics and transportation programs. See www.infochain.org/education/ep.html

Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation. The C.I.T.T. Diploma Program. The course of study required to earn the designation consists of 10 courses, which, depending on the course, can be taken in the classroom through partnerships with a network of colleges and universities across Canada, or via correspondence or the Internet. Courses include: transportation economics, transportation law, distribution I and II, organizational behavior, and risk management, among others. Contact C.I.T.T. at 416/363-5696, or, www.citt.ca/indes2.html

Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council. CTHRC offers several distance learning programs and workshop training sessions tailored for the driver and owner-operator. Presently, they offer a business skills course and a professional driver skills upgrade program. Soon to come from CTHRC, are two on-line learning programs, one for dispatchers and the other, an owner-operators business skills course. Contact CTHRC at 613/244-4800 or, www.cthrc.com

Del Getson and Associates Inc. Hampton, N.B. Getson offers training in National Safety Code compliance, TDG and WHIMIS issues. Contact Del Getson: 866/832-0981, or, www.safetyandcompliance.ca

Kim Richardson Transportation Specialists. Caledonia, Ont. KRTS offers two programs of interest to the driver with a career agenda, a train-the-trainer program for commercial driving instructors and an entry-level dispatcher training program. Contact KRTS at 905/765-3445 or, www.krway.com

Manitoba Trucking Association. Winnipeg, Man. MTA offers a variety of courses and seminars pertinent to the safety and compliance realm, including: hours of service/log books, TDG, air brake endorsement, as well as a four-day driver instructorís course. Contact MTA at 204/632-6600 or, www.trucking.mb.ca

Ontario Safety League. Mississauga, Ont. OSL offers a full roster of fleet safety, management and compliance programs, as well as driver skills improvement programs. An excellent resource for career advancement training. Courses include: load securement, hours-of-service, axle-weight legislation, CVOR, driver and company profiles, etc. Contact: OSL (905) 625-0556 or, www.osl.org/fleet.html

Transportation Health & Safety Association of Ontario. Located throughout Ontario, the THSAO offers a comprehensive list of professional driver training and development courses, including: commercial vehicle accident investigation, fleet driver trainer, national safety code, pre-trip inspection, allowable gross weights, TDG, etc. Contact: THSAO 416-242-4771 or, www.thsao.on.ca

Here are a few websites worth checking out. They list various courses, mostly career programs, but they may pique your interest.

  • University of New Brunswick Transportation Group - www.unb.ca/transpo/
  • University of Manitoba Transportation Institute - www.umanitoba.ca/transport_institute
  • Association of Community Colleges, programs database (enter 'transportation' in the search field) - www.accc.ca/english/Colleges/programs_database.cfm
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