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Training wheels come off at Etobicoke truck driving school

Last Updated Dec 15, 2017 at 5:32 pm EST

Focus.

That’s what is constantly running through the mind of truck driver-in-training Maxx Kochar as he grips the wheel of an 80-thousand pound, quarter-of-a-million-dollar, 75-foot-long tractor trailer.

Kochar is one of 32 students currently being put through the ropes of Humber College’s 10-week truck driver program at its transportation training centre in Etobicoke.

“I wanted to learn a new skill,” Kochar said. “I was looking at the market and the opportunities that were out there and I found that commercial trucking was viable.”

Viable, but it’s also an industry currently under intense scrutiny from both the public and police.

On Monday, OPP commissioner Brad Blair once again announced he is putting truck drivers in his high beams with a traffic blitz to bust distracted drivers.

As of Dec. 8, Blair said the OPP has responded to 6,200 collisions involving transport trucks where 87 lives have been claimed in 72 of those crashes. Blair added that OPP data revealed the truck driver was at fault in 65 per cent of those collisions.

James Pattison, manager of Humber’s Transportation Training Centre, says the course covers not only how to safely operate a truck and defensive driving, but also freight handling, driving time and load security.

“We want to make sure when our people graduate from the program that they understand what is required, they understand how to do it and they have a comfort level with the basic handling of a vehicle,” he said.

Rob Jackson, an instructor and driver with 31 years of experience, has been helping newbies take off the training wheels at Humber for two decades. He says he drives home one simple message to his students.

“Focus,” Jackson said. “They want to go home at the end of the day. Everything they do out there, everybody’s lives depend on what they do properly.”

A lesson that appears to be coming in loud and clear to students like Kochar when he’s behind the wheel.

“I’m going down the road and I’m trying to make sure that I’m paying attention to everything and everybody all the time.”

As part of Humber’s program, students can receive their A-class licence if they pass a rigorous two-and-a-half-hour driving test at the course’s conclusion.