When lives are at stake, is the saying, ‘better late than never’ still acceptable?

“Better late than never” would likely give little solace to families that lost loved ones as a result of the collision between a tractor-trailer and the Humboldt Broncos team bus.

Moments after the police arrested and laid 29 charges on the truck driver involved in the incident, the Alberta government made an announcement of its own – that changes are coming to the province’s trucking regulations.

Most notably, Alberta will mandate a mandatory entry-level driver training program (MELT), planned to roll out this coming January. The government will abolish the practice of issuing temporary safety fitness certificates to new carriers, which enables them to commence operations prior to passing and receiving their certificate. Changes will also be coming to the driver examination model, which could move from the private entity it is now to a government run program.

For trucking associations across Canada, including the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), this was welcome news. They have long been advocating for MELT programs in all provinces. Up until Alberta’s announcement, Ontario was the only province with such a program.

An unfortunate “benefit” that arises from tragedies like Humboldt is it often lights a fire under the government, getting initiatives like a MELT program – which had been in the works for the last two years – completed and mandated much quicker.

Sixteen lives had to be lost, as well as 13 injured, for this to happen so swiftly. That’s not even up for debate – it was admitted during the announcement that the changes were being fast-tracked because of the Humboldt tragedy. Not that they would never have happened, just not so soon.

I’m sure the grieving families are torn between their approval of the changes and the nagging question, “Why couldn’t this have been done prior to April 6?”

Saskatchewan is looking at a possible MELT program of its own, though no final decision has been made, and several other provinces, such as Manitoba and B.C., are also contemplating similar measures.

Another good thing that could come from more provinces mandating driver training is that it could change the way the government looks at the commercial driver occupation.

The industry has been trying to get the driver profession seen as a skilled trade for some time, and perhaps now that the world has seen that driving a semi-truck is not as simple as getting behind the wheel and pressing the pedal, legislators will finally realize that it is a job that takes skill.

I am not going to jump to conclusions and declare the truck driver is guilty of the charges laid against him. It is of course possible that during the court proceedings a piece of evidence will come out that many, including the RCMP, had not considered. For the sake of argument, however, if the driver is guilty of what police claim, then I don’t think there could be a better example of why the commercial driver profession should be looked at and treated quite differently than it has been.

The driver shortage – or as many refer to it as a shortage of “qualified” drivers – could also be improved by all these changes. If everyone had to complete mandatory entry-level training prior to driving a tractor-trailer, you would think the pool of applicants would be much improved. No more would you see someone running out and getting their Class 1 after one test and looking to get behind the wheel of a commercial truck.

All these changes are a positive, but for some, is it still better to be late than never?

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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  • Start. Stopping fines by walmart and others for delays because weathet traffic and lack of hours for the driver.

    • Ya they fine us if we are late and even if your on time they take 5 hours to unload us same goes for Loblaws someone needs to take control of shippers and receivers they constantly eat up our hours with no repercussions like right know for instance I was scheduled to be loaded at 2pm they say I won’t start getting loaded until 10pm so know my next 2 loads and hours are all screwed up the trucking industry is a total mess.

  • Derek-This should have been implemented 40 years ago,sadly these 16 people would be alive today. I agree “trade” classification and an in depth driver training program, equal to other trades implemented. Many drivers have even circumvented the minimum system in place over the past 30 years, as Humbolt accident is one example of others in the past overlooked. Excellent article,- John W. — Vancouver.

  • Is it just me? I have read your report and so many about how good the MELT program is. I too when I heard about it coming into Ontario raised a big cheer about time!! But as with so many government changes one step forward and two backwards ! What they are not making so public is before MELT Private Career Colleges had to give a minimum of 200 hours training on their truck driver training courses. That’s right 200 hours to be approved, Now with MELT just 103.5 hours they just cut training in Ontario by nearly 50%. According to new figures from OPP fatal truck accidents are up in Ontario 38% on average. We do not have any mandatory training for car or motorcycle driver/riders even when we loose approx. 483 people a year on our roads. As Truck drivers we should be demanding that all drivers get training and stop the carnage on our roads! it is not acceptable it would not accepted in any other industry so why should we accept it.

  • Mick,well said – It is time government to react – “no more conversation” time for a change to trade classification and equivalent monetary gains.

  • Excellent comments by the drivers, no bitching, reality and the truth explained everything. Appointments by the food retailers-distributors-shippers, are at the art of many problems. Truck availability, running empty milles and waiting time must be managed in a win-win situation.
    These people are looking at their own interest and do not care about service providers.
    We are all guilty of fighting for volume when we should be fighting for effeciency and profitability.

    Regarding driver training throug government agencies is not the right
    way to do it.

    The carriers under a supervision should provide training and funding should be made available.


  • Well said truck driver training is not enough all truck under 21 or from another county except for the U.S. or England should have spend at least 1000hours with a truck drivers that has at least 5000 hours of experience. This was not done because of concerns about the cost of truck pay going up.

  • Neither the gov or industry will not address the many issues is regards to driver training…the gov is to PC and the average transportation company is not willing to put dollars where their mouth is.
    Mandated training is long overdue but when the vast majority of people entering the professional driver career field becasue it is the easiest job they can get and make money you don’t have the right mindset or desire to work and make themselves truly professional drivers.