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Safety program for semi drivers ‘sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust’: author

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Trucking experts say there’s a simple way to prevent some of the 2,000 highway deaths in Canada each year, but the federal government is allowing that solution to gather dust on a shelf.

“It’s the perfect solution that’s already sitting there, and it’s not going to cost a lot of money,” said veteran driving instructor Andy Roberts.

There are no national training standards for Canada’s 300,000 semi drivers. Calls to change that have grown louder since 16 people died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash back in April.

CBC News has learned that curriculum has existed for years, and it was paid for by the federal government. Earning Your Wheels is a three-month semi-driving course, considered to be the gold standard by many in the industry.

It prepares truckers for all conditions including ice and snow, winding mountain roads and multi-lane freeways. It teaches them how to secure and haul their often massive loads, from logs to hazardous chemicals.

Veteran driving instructor Andy Roberts said the federal government needs to revive a semi training program that would save lives. (submitted)

The federal government financed its development several years ago, but isn’t using it. No one else is allowed to use it, either.

“They have the curriculum sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust, basically dormant,” said Roberts, a “master trainer” who’s graduated hundreds of drivers through his Castlegar, B. C.-based Mountain Transport Institute.

Concerns over ‘quickie courses’

The program’s origins date back to the late 1990s. According to Roberts and Pro Trucker Magazine editor John White, there was already concern back then over the lack of a national, uniform standard for truckers. The Broncos crash brought the issue into the public eye.

For less than $2,000, unethical schools would offer “quickie courses.” Anyone with their regular driver’s license could learn the bare minimum required to pass the relatively simple road test administered by each province.

With their new license in hand, they could drive anywhere in Canada—in any conditions with any size of load.

The federal government funded an organization to come up with a national standard. Many hoped it would also be made mandatory.

“Many of us have supported the idea for years,” White said.

Earning Your Wheels was the result: eight weeks of classroom, parking lot and road training, followed by a four week supervised apprenticeship.

It was made available to select trucking schools for more than a decade.

Program saved lives, says study 

A case study by the Conference Board of Canada heaped praise on the program. It said graduates were more competent than those who took other training, or no training at all. The program saved drivers and companies money because they were more efficient and skilled. But most of all, it said the program saved lives.

“The EYW (Earning Your Wheels) program has a direct impact on their safety performance records. Qualified drivers bring with them a measure of expertise and confidence that translates directly into fewer accidents,” stated the report.

Insurance companies, which evaluate risk when calculating premiums, apparently felt the same way. One said Earning Your Wheels is one of the few programs that meets every one of their safety criteria.

Pro Trucker Magazine Editor John White says provinces need to let the federal government set national semi training standards. (Pro Trucker Magazine)

“Not all training programs are the same,” states the website of Toronto-based Northbridge Insurance.

“This uneven approach to driver education and training is due largely to a lack of uniform federal and provincial regulations for truck driver training schools.”

Roberts helped the national officials update Earning Your Wheels in 2005. He and White said it was a great program, but there were three problems.

First, it wasn’t mandatory. That meant only 900 students across Canada took it in the first decade. An estimated 30,000 new truckers per year didn’t.

Second, the federal government continued to let provinces control the rules on training. That made any national standard impossible. In provinces like Saskatchewan, 10 per cent of new drivers took no training at all.

Third, they say the Harper government cut funding to the national group overseeing the curriculum in 2014. The national group folded. Earning Your Wheels was no longer offered.

They said the Trudeau government hasn’t seen fit to revive the course. Roberts and White hope that happens soon.

White is frustrated that politics, rather than safety, appears to be the main concern.

‘I blame…the federal government’: expert

“Each province unfortunately considers themselves their own little kingdom, I guess. They can’t get together and they can’t get a consensus of what a basic course should be for truck drivers,” White said.

“I blame that on the federal government. I believe the basic program should be federally operated.”

Things are changing slowly, they said. Ontario made training mandatory, and Saskatchewan and Alberta will do the same next year. But they noted those courses are less than a month long, and most provinces have no stated plan for training.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau was not available for an interview this week, said an official.

An official in his office has said in a previous email Garneau favours mandatory semi driver training, but declined to give details.

The statement said Garneau will raise the issue of semi training when he meets with his provincial counterparts next month.

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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