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Left out in the cold on MELT


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 williamcameron.bc@gmail.com.


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7 Comments » for Left out in the cold on MELT
  1. Angelo D says:

    Thanks for saying this. Since “Deregulation,” which obviously also meant – deregulation of accreditation in the “Mills” that were allowed to fester their way into trucking as legitimate, drivers have been waiting decades for something that looks like a real course to the title of “Professional” and ultimately, respect. ELD’s are another indication that the industry is headed in the right direction. After all, you can’t put truckers and their companies under the highest scrutiny without a fail-safe system that disallows for cracks to fall through.

  2. Rob S says:

    Good article Bill. in general I believe the MELT program is a step in the right direction, but like everything else at the MTO which involves the “A” license it is discriminatory and has minimum standards, but provides good window dressing for the general public. From what I understand the behind- the-wheel component could theoretically be accomplished by positioning a new driver at any entrance ramp of the 401 and having them drive to another exit ramp in an automatic truck between Toronto and Montreal about 4 times, and this would be accredited time. I certainly would like to have seen the mandatory training include a manual transmission component or at least an identification of the driver’s licence to show the test was done in an automatic. I do like the blind-side backing exercise, however the off-road components should have also included more obstacles similar to those offered in a truck driving competition. The over-the-road training should have also spelled out the mileage expected in rural, urban, suburban and highway training. Unfortunately the OTA, PMTC and the TTSAO are political groups which are primarily just looking out for their own self interests. I’m sure we will see them or an off-shoot selling their own brand of training materials. I only see the program as more levelling the costs and playing field for most of the training schools. I guess the big question is, did the HTA change, or is a person with an “AZ” license still able to teach another person to get their license and by-pass the schools entirely? It will also be interesting to see how the course times are adjusted, since I believe the Colleges are mandated at 200 hours and the Driver Certification program is 92.

  3. TG says:

    Bill – couldn’t agree anymore – the assumption is that the OTA represents the entire industry when in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. I think its fair to say that OTA actively works to drive away smaller fleets, and places absolutely no priority on the priorities of anything other than their old boys club.

    • Yogi says:

      I would have to agree with TG on this one. The OTA represents a very small fraction of the Ontario based carriers. By far the vast majority stay away from OTA simply because they do not address real world workable solutions to every day problems.
      OTA tends to rollover to MTO. Unfortunately, MTO is about 20 years or so behind the times, and in fact it is not even in sync with its own government. Just look at the 6×2 fiasco as an example.
      I would not say that OTA actively drives away smaller fleets, but OTA is certainly over-protective of its members, and generally exists to advance only their agenda.

  4. Claire Ravenwood says:

    I took an accredited course of 8 weeks. When I graduated did I know everything? No, but I knew enough to have a good start and was hired by a reputable carrier.

    I feel training should be done on both automated as well as manual transmission trucks. If your automated tractor dies in Outback, Alberta and the only thing available is a manual, at least you can still drive it.

    I trained on automated and 10 and 13 speed tractors. At times, one would think I wrote the book on shifting a manual transmission, other times like it was like we were never introduced! I took my test with the automated one. That would just be the day I wouldn’t be able to shift decently for a hill of cash. I wasn’t taking a chance. My carrier operates an automated fleet but knowing that in an emergency I could drive a manual is great comfort.

    MELT isn’t perfect, I agree, but it beats allowing drive-by-night schools from taking a fee, giving the student the bare minimum to pass a MOT test then not have enough proper training for any carrier with repute to take them on. In the end, and I have seen it, paying a good school more money to give them the additional skills needed to get hired.

    I saw one person, who had his licence, on a carrier road test who couldn’t finish the maneuver asked of him in the yard and the instructor completed it otherwise I think he would still be at it. He failed the test miserably but not just for that but for a general lack of knowledge and poor driving skills.

    One person I was told had tried 5 MOT road tests and failed. Not the person I’d even consider hiring even if he did pass on the 6th try.

    MELT isn’t perfect but it is a good start and has a lot of room for improvement, especially if a person has prior experience driving large trucks in say another country or the military which in Canada can issue their own operator’s licence. They would be considered new drivers probably under the MELT proposals. That experience should be taken into consideration especially if it can be documented.

  5. William McKechnie says:

    I for one am glad that there is no ‘time credits’ for previous related work experience. New Canadians may have driven elsewhere, and some have adapted to the North American driving conditions, but most have not! They need to understand, bot just the laws, but the common courtesy that somehow has disappeared over the last few decades. I’m retiring August 12 after over 40 years. It used to be fun. Now I dread going to work!

  6. Shawn Marcil says:

    I also contacted a bunch of the people involved with this reg and was not even replied to. I wrote many letters saying how I agree with the industry needing better training standards, but I feel the way they are going about it is all wrong.

    I’ve been both a driver and an owner/op for over 27 years, and now I can’t even train my own son. The income a truck driver makes is terrible enough…..without starting out with an eight thousand dollar bill from the truck driving school. Mandatory.

    I also pointed out to the MTO about an un-named friend of mine that is a driver trainer at one of the big accredited schools in Ontario. He tells me many stories of repeatedly failing people that have no business behind the wheel, UNTIL U.I. or Compensation shows up with a big cheque and informs the school…..we don’t care what you do, but you are giving this person a license and getting them off comp/U.I.
    No corruption there.

    If they want to solve the problem, why not make trucking like a trade, where you have to serve an apprenticeship? Oh wait, I know, the fleets don’t want to have to pay to train there own drivers to fill their driver shortages.

    And why not just have tougher on-road driving tests to get your license. What are the MTO road test inspectors there for??

    Typical government/trucking industry……don’t try and fix your own problems, just pass the buck.

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