Helmets to Hardhats Canada (H2H Canada) is applauding a new initiative in Ontario for people who have accreditation to operate trucks and large vehicles in the armed forces which will now recognize these qualifications in the civilian economy.
"It's good news for vets, because with this they can go and upgrade their personal civilian drivers licence, which will allow them now to go immediately and get work driving, whether it's a ready-mix truck or whatever it is," said said Greg Matte, H2H Canada executive director. "And, of course there is a shortage of qualified drivers in Ontario. It's just the right thing to do. It makes sense."
H2H Canada is a partnership with Canada's Building Trades Unions, employers and government, which helps anyone who has served or is currently serving in the armed forces make the transition to a civilian career.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) announced on June 19 that Canadian military personnel and veterans will be allowed to exchange Department of National Defence (DND) 404 driver's permits for an applicable Ontario licence.
After an extensive review of DND licensing standards, the MTO found that training and testing requirements meet Ontario's licence testing standards.
"We knew the training and qualifications in the military were very high or probably higher than what is required in the civilian world," said Matte. "But, to actually get that recognized and get the bureaucracy to take the time and divert some of their attention and priorities to look at this was not an insignificant thing."
As of July 1, 2015, Ontario will waive knowledge and road tests for qualified applicants. But, they will still be required to complete a vision test, meet medical standards, satisfy identification requirements and payment of fees.
The new initiative will help those leaving the military to make the transition to civilian work, by assisting them to find jobs in the trucking sector.
Matte estimates the program will initially affect upwards of several hundred people, if not the low thousands.
The reason for such a positive outlook is that Ontario is providing a three-year period of retroactivity. This means Service Ontario will recognize the credentials of a person who has been in the service and retired up to three years ago.
The Conference Board of Canada released a study in 2013 that found Canada could experience a shortage of 25,000 to 33,000 for-hire truck drivers by 2020. According to the study, tens of thousands of current drivers are about to retire and there are a very small number of young drivers taking their place.
For example, the study estimates that in 2020 there will be demand for 77,300 for-hire drivers in Ontario, but the supply will be only 71,400. This leaves a supply shortage or gap of 5,900 drivers.
"This is significant for Ontario, because the grand strategy here is to try and get every single province and territory on board," said Matte who noted that Manitoba and Quebec have also moved forward with similar programs.
In addition, H2H Canada is also working with the Alberta government to have military driver's credentials recognized.
"Alberta hasn't approved yet. That's who we were working with originally and were hoping they would be the first ones to go forward," said Matte. "We are expecting an announcement in the next three weeks. They have already signed all the paper work but it hasn't been announced."
So, sometime in the near future, when vets retire in Alberta and have their training fully documented, they will be given credit for that as a commercial license.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance commissioned the Conference Board of Canada study titled "Understanding the Truck Driver Supply and Demand Gap and Implications for the Canadian Economy" in February 2013.