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It’s time to get serious about MELT


Mandatory entry-level training is going to become the only topic to date that I’ve written about in this column more than once. In June, I e-mailed Ontario’s Transport Minister with my concerns that this legislation – like the speed limiter law before it – seemed to be an invitation-only affair. If you don’t have an Ontario Trucking Association membership, your opinions appear to be unwanted and ignored.

My e-mail was quite clear that I don’t hold this opinion because of any feeling of disdain towards the OTA. They’re a group of businesspeople, most with huge business interests. It’s foolish to suggest they have no right to use their incredible influence to sway policy any way they wish to.

I do have a problem with the way they react to any contradiction of their collective opinion. This always seems to gravitate towards name calling, with opponents referred to as ‘law-breakers’ or ‘environmentally irresponsible.’

Healthy debate is how better solutions are found. It’s illogical and self-righteous to assume there will never be any alter-native, constructive ideas presented, or different variations and improvements on the original idea. If anyone’s proposal or theory is strong enough, it should survive debate, maybe even thrive because of it. Attempted refusals to allow conflicting opinions just escalates the animosity in this industry. In a free democracy, no one group or individual can sensibly assume omnipotent superiority over everyone else. A paid membership-style association isn’t, or shouldn’t be, an arm of the government.

My issue here is with the Ontario Liberals, and the way such legislation is again being handled behind closed doors. I reminded the Minister that OTA member trucks comprise less than 50% of Ontario trucks; the rest of us also have a wealth of experience and opinions to add.

All citizens have a constitutional right to participate, and to be informed. If this law is to be a proper and effective piece of legislation, which it must be, then it deserves full co-operation and partici-pation from all of the industry, not just the vocal minority. With the high level of public distrust towards this government, any mandatory driver training standard would be a better designed law had it been constructed during a minority government.

Google ‘mandatory entry-level train-ing,’ and you’ll come up with nothing, beyond the announcement that it’s to be addressed. The ministry tells me there’s a public session scheduled for September. Then why has there been no public announcement? Why the mystery?

Supposedly, 200 hours is the chosen course duration. How do you install time parameters across the board? Some drivers, with previous equipment experience, may not require nearly that much training. For some, 70 to 100 hours of training may be enough. Someone who’s never even walked around a truck may still be far from satisfactory after 200 hours. My suggestion is a background experience check and aptitude test, followed by a high school-style curriculum system, where three different skill levels determine the course length. Assign a fixed length course to every industry aspect; load securement, road rules, mechanical knowledge, etc. Failed a course? Take that course semester again, until you’ve passed each unit.

We’ve heard that 24 hours is the time chosen to be spent in a manual transmission vehicle, which absolutely infuriates me. I grew up around farm and construction equipment. By my twenties, I was familiar and somewhat handy with various types of equipment, but I can honestly say that 24 hours in a manual transmission wouldn’t have been enough. However, once proficient, I’ve had opportunities to (unwillingly) drive automatic/automated trucks. Instruction for those, with existing skills, took about two minutes. Learn the most difficult task first, thoroughly; the easy tasks are even simpler then.

It’s time-consuming trying to communicate with the government, but they’ve responded twice now – by phone, not just e-mail – for which I thank them. I expressed my concerns. I’m not entirely sure they were heard though. I asked for an e-mail address to provide input, which was promised, but it hasn’t materialized yet, so I’ve included what I have, for now.

The results of this law will determine the people who share our highways, and that concerns everybody. Are you happy with all the drivers we share roads with now? I’m not. In June and July of 2012, I wrote columns about driver training standards. Now, magically, it’s a pressing piece of business.

Many of you have constructive ideas – likely better than mine – and they need to be heard – now. Start burying the transport ministry with e-mails with your experience-based suggestions, and ask for inclusion in the process.

Forward them to your own MPP also, but please, only constructive, well thought out ideas. You’ll send the cause backwards if your e-mail is a poorly spelled rant offering nothing constructive, or little more than profanity and insults. Constructive debate is in all our best interests. The minister’s e-mail addresses are:  sdelduca.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org. Also, minister.mto@ontario.ca. The parliamentary secretary is paul.harbottle@ontario.ca.

I think this issue is more important than many people realize. Please, get involved, and help make it occur properly.

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Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation, a flatdeck trucking company. Bill can be reached at williamcameron.bc@gmail.com.


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