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Bus and Motor Coach Library

The Value of Driver Certification

It finds favor among drivers & industry people alike, according to a landmark bus industry survey by the Motor Carrier Passenger Council of Canada

Author – Joan Crawford (2002)

Many industry people in the United States, including drivers, have long voiced opinions that would favor driver certification.  Many have talked about the benefits of such a program.  And interestingly enough, such support appears to be generally found equally across the entire bus industry spectrum - urban transit, intercity, community based transportation, contract and specialized services, special needs, and student transportation providers.
            Given that most authorities and transportation officials point out that the majority of accidents are due to driver error, it follows that a redirection of government resources invested in driver training and certification would represent a wise investment.
            The Motor Carrier Passenger Council of Canada, wholly funded by the Canadian federal government, has taken some dramatic initiatives in the areas of human resource development.  One of their most ambitious programs has been spearheading the creation and publication of National Occupational Standards for Bus Operators.  This document is now being used to produce a new industry Human Resources Planning & Recruitment Guide, and to establish training standards.  Recently, a national survey on proposed voluntary certification of bus drivers went out to thousands in the bus industry.  The preliminary results are now in, and both drivers and industry are favoring the idea of certification.

The Motor Carrier Passenger Council of Canada (MCPCC) was created just two and half years ago, in partnership with Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), a federal agency, and the bus industry.  John Zenko, formerly Senior Industrial Consultant, HR Partnerships, who worked closely with the Council, says, “Developing management skills is a complex process that requires the integrated efforts of business, labor, education, and government.  There's no room for complacency in any industry, so seeing an initiative like this move forward, it's an effort in the right place, right time, and in the right direction.  The Council has made terrific progress, in a relatively short time, and their cost effectiveness is impressive, as well.”            

Joan Crawford, Executive Director, MCPCC, explains, “Today, it's crucial for business leaders to recognize the 'human factor' in delivering their products and services.      Our Council grew out of the industry's foresight to find better ways to link our human resources to actual business strategies.  Our mandate is to provide the means for companies to plan, train, and retain the right people, thereby, improving performance and enhancing public perception.” 

So, what does the Council offer the industry?  “It's been pointed out to us, by both Canadian and American industry experts, that we are a unique entity in North America.  Our programs are the result of the ongoing collaboration of all groups in the bus industry, including labor,” says Ms. Crawford            

“We bring our human resources expertise to bear on challenges that are faced by the industry, and involve the bus experts at each step in developing viable solutions.  The Council is truly synergistic.  And, because of the strong link to HRDC, the industry is well represented 'at the table' in Ottawa, when it comes to resources that can be channeled into real initiatives within the bus sector.  We have expertise and access to resources in such areas as recruitment, training, and career awareness, which we can then direct to meet specific needs,” continues Joan.  “In addition, we have, or are in the process of developing, human resources tools that will further support individual companies in their efforts to streamline their hiring processes, training, or delivering special services, such as those for seniors and persons with disabilities.”

One of the most interesting and far-reaching challenges the Council has taken on to date is the establishment of National Occupational Standards for Bus Operators.  “The Standards were published in June 2000,” says Joan.  “The project was a comprehensive collaboration of all interested sectors: labor, intercity, urban, tour, charter, school, and accessible companies.  Now that they are published, we've moved on to the next logical step - a national Certification program.”            

Joan continues, “Our first priority was to solicit opinion from the industry.  A comprehensive survey was distributed to a representative sample of Bus Operators, companies, associations, and unions across Canada.  To date, we have received approximately 3,000 completed surveys, a gratifyingly high response.  I think that the number of surveys completed and returned is a strong indication of the interest in this idea and pride in the profession.  We're very pleased that so many Bus Operators took the time to complete the survey and offer their comments.”

“We're here to gather and assess information, and then act on behalf of the needs that our industry identifies.  The results have been overwhelmingly in favor of improving public perception, job satisfaction, and training and development.  One crucial indicator is the 66% of respondents who agree that a national Certification program would change or improve the public's perception of their profession.  And, 57% believe that Certification would improve their personal career.  Almost 73% of Bus Operators also indicated that Certification would assist bus companies to improve their training and development of drivers.  Of course, these are the very Human Resources-related areas that our Council created to address,” says Joan.             Comments from the survey respondents also provided some valuable insights into their perception of Certification.  Drivers indicated that they thought that Certification would:

- "bring attention to one's ability." 

-  "increase my employability."   l  "give me a feeling of security, more self-confidence, and more pride in my job."

- "be an opportunity to upgrade myself."            

To date, the company surveys also favor Certification.  Fully 76% of respondents agree that such a program would improve public perception, which 97% expressed as important to their businesses. The majority also indicated that they would use Certification as part of their advertising and marketing efforts, and that it would help to improve training and development.  Over 80% confirmed that their companies have training programs already in place, which would contribute to the certification of their Operators.            

“These preliminary results have given us some valuable insights and will help shape our future work,” Joan explains. 

The Council will be publishing the complete survey results in the near future, once the final tallies are in.  With those results in hand, the Council can move ahead with development, working closely with unions and the various sectors to pull together a viable national program.            

Dave Leach, Vice President, Passenger Services, Greyhound Canada, says, “We strongly support the Council's initiatives to raise the profile of the bus operator profession.”  An active member of the Council since its inception, Greyhound Canada is a leading employer of bus operators and mechanics, training more than 100 operators each year.  “Certification recognizing Grey-hound's demanding training program will help us in attracting and retaining high-quality applicants, thus reducing our human resources costs over the long haul.”

The Council continues to build on the strengths of this industry.  “Currently, we're creating a Career Awareness package, to attract new entrants into our Bus Operator and Mechanic fields.  We are running national focus groups on the Recruitment package and elements relating to Certification.  It's crucial to get industry input at the early stages of any wide-ranging program, to ensure its relevance, accuracy, and value,” Commented Ms. Crawford.             

The Council is dedicated to finding new and innovative ways to address the human resources challenges inherent to the bus industry.  “We're constantly seeking ways to work with industry and government to promote our industry as a critical link in the nation's transportation infrastructure.  It includes working in the environmental field, in human resources, raising standards and performance levels, addressing safety and service issues, and liaising with the government's National Skills Agenda on behalf of the bus industry,” says Joan.