Remember when I apologized for visiting the same specific topic a second time? Sorry, but here comes Chapter 3 on MELT (Mandatory Entry-Level Training), which is hopefully the final installment.
After reading the draft of the proposed training legislation, there’s very little of significance that I strongly disagree with, aside from an obvious omission.
I had understood that it was almost unanimous that training must be conducted primarily using manual transmissions, but somehow in the process, that was changed. Since the Ministries of Transportation and Training, Colleges and Universities fundamentally wouldn’t realize the importance of manual transmission training, obviously strong influences changed their thinking.
I was pleased to notice that the skills training requirement includes blindside backing, something I recommended. New drivers are usually told not to blindside under any circumstance, but what if the next available choice is to back out into traffic? Better to have some limited practice. Other than the transmission issue, the legislation is workable. There are some aspects of the process that I wasn’t happy about, however.
First, and least significant, guidelines were divided into two categories: mandatory and recommended. The ‘recommended’ column had plenty of unnecessary filler, such as personal hygiene and conflict resolution. Those are basic life skills, not something that belongs in an expensive skills training course.
Next, there’s nothing to allow ‘time credits’ for previous related work experience. People who already have extensive machinery or off-road truck experience simply won’t need the training that a fresh rookie will.
When I first heard that talks about MELT were already taking place, I began e-mailing everybody in the Transport Ministry I could find, finally receiving a return call from a very pleasant staffer who assured me that only a couple meetings had been held with “the industry.”
I reminded her there had been none that I was aware of. She reiterated that a couple meetings had been held with the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA). I corrected her, pointing out they are not the entire industry.
I reminded her of the animosity that existed from the speed limiter law, basically constructed by the OTA and rubber-stamped by the government. She forwarded my information to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, who contacted me and seemed interested in feedback from smaller industry members.
I was told I would be on the list of stakeholders involved in future meetings. I was invited to one, in September 2015, where my place was quickly evident. Other than school owners, insurance people, and MTCU personnel, the only non-OTA (or other association) guy was me. One outspoken industry member exhibited extremely childish measures to emphasize his disdain for my presence.
I was seated in a group of really nice people, and left with the opinion that this was the start of something beneficial that I could finally be a part of and that the valuable points raised that day would be expanded on.
Other than a follow up online survey, I was never contacted again, even though I was told I would be. Yet last month, I read in PMTC president Mike Millian’s column that he has been involved in “over 20” such meetings. In other words, the attitude seems to have been to invite the little guy once, then maybe he’ll shut up. A number of smaller operators whose contact information I relayed to the MTCU as interested parties were never contacted at all.
There were two other points I’ve raised, repeatedly. One, that driver trainers also need to meet a standard criteria, so the bar isn’t consistently lowered. Second, pass further legislation forcing insurance companies to allow small trucking companies to hire new graduates, since they’ll now be trained to a much higher level. Those two items, like my repeated suggestion of an allowable credit for prior experience will never see the light of day, because the right people don’t want it.
Petty as it sounds, I have to admit what really frustrates me about this is that it took a Toronto Star expose about driver mills to spur the government into action. As far back as 2012 in this magazine I was calling for a standardized, mandated training course, and a more difficult test procedure. The only response I got was a couple disgruntled drivers. Now, it’s urgent government business.
The biggest issue I have is the invitation-only aspect to developing MELT. I’ve never denied the vast experience that exists within the OTA, TTSAO or other organizations, but there are huge numbers of industry members who belong to no organizations, who also have plenty of input to add. We not only offered, but put effort into being involved, despite the scheduling difficulties it would involve, yet were almost entirely shut out of any face-to-face meetings.
The problems of this industry affect us all differently, so the input of various viewpoints should be a requirement and, more importantly, our democratic right to be involved. Is anybody in Queen’s Park or Ottawa listening? I doubt it.
Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation, a small flatdeck trucking company. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.
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