Multiple provincial and territorial governments have been talking about mandatory entry-level training (MELT) over the last several years, and it has been a hot topic at Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) meetings for at least as many.
The topic gained more attention when Ontario announced in 2015 that it was going to mandate it there. (MELT for A/Z drivers in Ontario came into effect on July 1, 2017).
The Humboldt bus tragedy has pushed this topic to the very forefront of the regulators’ and media’s attention again. Recently, Alberta announced it will be introducing MELT, possibly as early as January 2019, along with several other changes in regards to truck safety. It also held stakeholder consultation sessions in Edmonton and Airdrie, Alta., in July, which the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) attended.
Saskatchewan, while not as far along as Alberta, has announced it has been looking into MELT, and will be introducing some form of program in the not-too-distant future. Manitoba and B.C. are also researching MELT, and all the western provinces have had initial discussions concerning a “western MELT framework.”
The PMTC was one of the key stakeholders in the MELT consultations in Ontario and has lobbied Transport Canada to work on a national framework for MELT for the last several years. As a lot of you will know, getting a common regulation implemented across every province and territory in Canada is a challenge, to say the least, and the patchwork of rules and regulations the industry is forced to work with as it travels across provincial boundaries is a major burden and expense.
The CCMTA has done great work at bringing the feds and provinces together to discuss regulations and work towards common ground, however a lot of work still needs to be done.
While the PMTC is encouraged that the different jurisdictions are talking, and that most appear to be reviewing the only MELT framework in place in North America right now, which requires 103.5 hours of training, we are already hearing rumblings of massively different MELT hours being considered.
This concerns us. Sixty or 70 hours of training has already been floated by Saskatchewan and is a number we have heard being tossed around as a possible framework for the four western provinces. I hope this is not a number that is seriously being considered, as less than two weeks of training is woefully inadequate in our view.
We have the opportunity to work together, build a common approach, and a framework that can be utilized for a training standard across the land. The Ontario standard is not perfect, and does need some refinement, however this should be looked at as a minimum standard and one to be learned from and built upon. If we are serious about a MELT regime that will have a serious impact on road safety and increase the entry-level skills of new drivers to the industry, we must work on a meaningful and robust standard, not one that is simply better than nothing.
Let’s look at Ontario’s, keep what’s working, build upon what isn’t working, and build a meaningful national Memorandum of Understanding for MELT that all provinces and territories can be encouraged to utilize.
I don’t know if driver training was an issue in the Humboldt tragedy, and I don’t know if MELT would have prevented these tragic events from occurring. But I do know it would not have hurt to have mandatory training.
Standardized mandatory training is needed for commercial drivers, and the time to raise the bar as to what is required to enter this industry as a driver, has come. The requirements to get in have been far too low, for far too long. We are at a moment in time where there appears to be a will for mandatory commercial driver training in most regions of Canada, and we have the opportunity to ensure we put a standard in place that is meaningful and workable across the land. Let’s not waste it.
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