MELT is a good first stop

by Al Goodhall

I’m tired. There are a lot of things in the trucking industry that can wear you down as a driver. But nothing drains me more than the jabber that rains down about safety. You see, I think that rather than being expected as a driver to deliver safety at the tip of a bayonet – that is, regulations and fines – I should be delivering safety as a result of the exceptional training and treatment I receive as a professional driver.

I’ve written about this before. Truck driving is one of the top 10 occupations with the highest numbers of deaths per thousand workers. Without a strong industry and regulatory focus on my personal safety, how can I be expected to deliver on a commitment to keeping others safe around me? Without a workplace culture that is virtuous in its moral and ethical approach as to how the requisite safety skills are delivered to guys like me, how can the trucking sector make strides towards a safer workplace? Remember, my workplace is the commons we all share.

So, we’re looking at mandatory entry-level training (MELT) as a federal responsibility. Good. I’m in agreement with that.

But don’t forget that each individual truck driver in Canada will accumulate more driving time in the next two weeks than the time that is currently spent to certify a new commercial driver to operate in our public space. What happens after that is dependent on how the individual driver is treated. It’s not about the ability to stick to a set of rules. It is about delivering a high moral sense of purpose to all drivers. The rules are tools enabling drivers to build a safer workspace.

MELT is only the first step on a journey that ends at the conclusion of a driver’s career. It is a beginning, nothing more. This is where the lip service and hand wringing that trickles down from the top starts to wear out guys like me.

You see, once a driver has been on the road and accumulated that first 10,000 hours of experience, it becomes all about attitude. Four or five years of life and learning has passed by.

The majority of a driver’s time is now spent thinking about their day rather than the moment to moment experience at their fingertips. A driver’s muscle memory has been developed in terms of the physical skills needed to safely operate a heavy piece of equipment. A driver has made some career decisions over this course of time and decided to stick it out. The majority of drivers have reached a point in their career that being treated well for doing what they do well is the most important thing to them in terms job satisfaction. Yes, they want to be paid well too.

It is at this point in a professional driver’s career that we usually find, or have found, a carrier that is a good fit. We find a sector of the industry that speaks to our passion for driving and challenges us with additional skill sets. Every professional driver that reaches this point, usually about five years in to their career, has a passion for driving and safety.

What professional drivers in Canada don’t have is a network to feed back their experience to the regulatory bodies that govern their workspace. Drivers don’t have the training infrastructure needed that provides ongoing career training and national standards for the carriers they work for. Drivers need MELT. Drivers need apprenticeship training after MELT. Drivers need certification and recognition as a trade. Drivers need ongoing training over the course off their careers.

Professional drivers and carriers of integrity know what has to be done to eliminate collisions on our public roads. We just need the public will to get it done. Living with the unresolved problem and seeing the simplicity of the solution is what tires me out.

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