Making progress

by Mike Millian

On Jan. 21, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that a federal entry-level training standard for commercial drivers will be in place by January 2020.

While details are scarce at this point, what we do know is the feds, provinces and territories, along with the industry, will be working together, through the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), to develop a national standard which will be embedded within the National Safety Code.

This is a step in the right direction, and one that is long overdue. The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) has long been an advocate for mandatory entry-level training (MELT) standards and has been encouraging Transport Canada for years to develop a minimum national standard to guide all jurisdictions in Canada.

Currently, Ontario is the only jurisdiction with MELT, requiring 103.5 hours of training. Alberta and Saskatchewan will be joining Ontario in March, requiring 121.5 hours of training. Manitoba is also currently working with stakeholders and expects to announce its MELT standard sometime in 2019.

A few other jurisdictions are planning consultations for 2019 or 2020, but have not officially announced timelines or framework for these consultations as of the time of penning this article. While this is great news, it still leaves seven jurisdictions that have yet to announce any plans for MELT. Guidance from the feds is needed so we can ensure a minimum standard that all jurisdictions can adopt, that will form the framework for reciprocal agreements for commercial driver licence standards, and licence exchange from coast to coast to coast.

Many will argue that 103.5, or 121.5, or whatever number the feds come up with, is not nearly enough hours to train someone to be a professional commercial motor vehicle operator. I can’t argue against this point, as they are correct, but one must keep in mind, these are minimum standards to provide a better entry-level driver. It is still up to industry to ensure we provide more guidance, training and mentorship when the new driver enters the industry.

MELT is not intended to, nor will it ever, replace proper training programs from industry to expand the skills of new drivers. The PMTC views this announcement as a positive step, and one that hopefully brings us one step closer to having the job of a professional truck driver classified as a skilled occupation. The PMTC looks forward to working with the CCMTA and Transport Canada in developing the new entry-level standards, just as we did when working with other jurisdictions on their consultations.

I also briefly want to mention Ontario’s announcement on Jan. 24 that it is joining the ranks of Alberta and 41 U.S. states in implementing pre-clearance technology at weigh scales across the province.

This is positive news and I encourage all carriers who operate in Alberta, Ontario or the U.S. to look into applying to be part of the program. The program is not mandatory. Carriers and/or drivers only need to apply if they want to, however the benefits to everyone, in my view, are more than worth becoming part of the program.

Carriers who have good safety records will have the luxury of being cleared to bypass weigh stations more often, saving the driver and the carrier time and money. This will also allow enforcement officers to spend more time inspecting equipment that historically has higher failure rates, thus removing unsafe vehicles from the roadway until repairs are made.

There really is no downside to becoming part of this program. I encourage the remaining jurisdictions in Canada to become part of this program as well, as the more we have involved, the better the payback is to the carriers and drivers enrolled, and the industry as a whole.

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