“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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