MELT and NELT are works in progress

by Mike Millian

In recent months, I have made several presentations on mandatory entry-level training (MELT) and provided updates and information on where we sit in each jurisdiction.

I’ve also discussed where the national entry-level training (NELT) standard file is at. MELT is a file that is close to my heart, as I believe quality training at an entry, or pre-licensing stage, is imperative to ensure the industry receives a quality entry-level driver, with the basic skills required for the job.

It is then the job of the carrier and industry to place the new graduate in proper mentoring and post-licence programs to give the driver and carrier the best chance for a successful, long-term, rewarding career.

In recent presentations, I have noticed a growing frustration from attendees on the state of the MELT program, specifically in Ontario. There’s also been frustration over a perceived lack of training, the quality of the training being provided, as well as a lack of mandated post-licence training on the job.

What is understood, is that high-quality schools who provide students with MELT as a minimum, who have relationships with quality carriers, and provide students with connections to these carriers which have mentorship and intensive post-licensing training programs, have far better success rates with long-term placements and lower turnover rates. They also provide a safer driver.

The problem is, too many fly-by-night schools are still in place. While MELT was meant to rid the industry of these fly-by-nighters who sell students a bill of goods, and promise them a licence and successful career for unreasonably cheap rates, these schools have simply found another loophole to go through and continue to exist.

Too many schools are providing substandard training, not abiding by the rules that exist under MELT, and don’t provide the facilities, equipment, and number of hours required to meet the standard. The fear of being caught is so low, that these schools continue to operate and unleash unsafe, unprepared drivers into an industry that either can’t accept them as a result of their training or must start from scratch with their training.

This has led to an increasing number of people declaring that MELT is a joke. Let me be clear in my views here: I believe MELT is a good program that has the best intentions of everyone involved.

MELT was developed through the collaboration of government and industry stakeholders. We can all argue whether the hours of mandated training are enough, and whether the curriculum covers all the topics we think are required. But what can’t be argued is that MELT, and the upcoming NELT, are steps in the right direction.

Before MELT, there was no requirement for anyone to take training of any sort before attempting their Class 1 road test. MELT raised the floor. However, what is also clear, is that we still have work to do.

We have an inadequate level of oversight in place, we have standards that need to be improved, policies that need to be amended and regulations that need to be adjusted. The good news is, industry and government are aware of these issues, and continue to work together to address them.

Meetings and communications continue as the industry and government look to refine the program and find better ways to monitor and enforce the regulations that exist. While the majority of the industry, in my view, can be counted on to do things right and follow the regulations, a small but expanding segment will always find ways to bypass the regulations and knowingly and willingly break the rules as a business practice.

We must continue to be vigilant and expose these bad actors. If you know of a school or carrier that is not playing by the rules, please report them to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the Ministry of Transportation, local or provincial police, or reach out to one of the many industry representatives and associations that exist, including this one.

We can ensure that your concerns are forwarded to the proper authorities. We can’t let frustration make us throw our hands up in the air and give up – that is what the non-compliant people in any industry are counting on.

Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, the only national association that represents the views and interests of the private fleet industry. He can be reached at trucks@pmtc.ca

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  • The other important question is what companies are doing to “finish” these drivers? Having standards of training is awesome and long overdue, but when companies get these new drivers what are the checks and balances in place to ensure that they receive proper training to become successful long distance truck drivers? Our company New Hope Transport has a comprehensive and detailed follow up with the trainee and we break them in slowly. Daily evaluations with our trainer, not moving to the next step until the trainee and trainer are confident, and closely monitoring the new drivers progress through dispatch and our Driver Services department. Trucking companies going the extra mile is what’s needed as well for MELT to work effectively. Thanks Doug

  • While the MELT program is a positive step forward, commercial vehicle operators remain an unskilled trade which deters new drivers from entering into the industry. Governmental agencies need to evolve driver training programs into more of a journeyman type program where drivers go through staged processes (prescribed number of hours on a specific type of equipment) to become a full fledged commercial vehicle operator. I believe it is the responsibility of a carrier to support, educate and provide experience to drivers through the process in a similar manner they would an apprentice heavy duty mechanic.
    Operating a set of trains compared to a straight trailer certainly have different required skills and as such should be identified and taught to drivers. One way to manage this could be through a provincial apprenticeship board where certificates and potential CDL endorsements are applied authorizing drivers the privilege to operate specific types of commercial motor vehicles and/or transport specific types of commodity.
    I realize we have a long way to go and believe carriers are willing to undertake necessary tasks to have the best drivers possible representing them, we simply need the government support in many respects…..just my two bits
    Thanks