Waiting game

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BANFF, Alta. – Alberta Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Luke Ouellette, says the province will not rush a decision on Hours-of-Service or speed limiters.

Ouellette addressed industry leaders during the Alberta Motor Transport Association Management Conference in Banff, Alta. and highlighted some government plans for the upcoming year.

While road construction projects sit at the top of the ministry’s to-do list, Ouellette also made note of the launch of two programs and where the provincial government is sitting on the issues of hours-of-service and speed limiters.

“It’s no secret we have not been doing enough to keep our roads in good condition,” said Ouellette. “We plan to repave 2,500 km of roads in the next three years. It’s not as much as I want or would like, but it’s a start.”

The launch of the Professional Driver Certificate program through Red Deer College is expected to improve the skills of entry-level drivers, while the re-launch of the Partners in Compliance program in May should allow enforcement officials to focus their attention on unsafe carriers.

Red Deer College has partnered with a handful of driver training schools throughout the province to administer the post-Class 1 certificate program, aimed at providing new drivers with more classroom theory and experience behind the wheel.

The provincial government has invested $900,000 into the two-year pilot program, which has been in development since 1997.

The first students will begin in June 2007, completing their training in December, 2007. Students of the program will undergo eight weeks of classroom and in-cab training, a six-week coached practicum, followed by seven to 15 weeks of paid co-op work experience.

Upon completion of the program, graduates will receive a Red Deer College Certificate, a CTHRC Certificate and an Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation Professional Driver Licence endorsement on their Class 1 licence.

“The Professional Driver Certificate program responds to the need of educating new drivers and it’s an exciting new initiative,” said Ouellette. “Carriers don’t just want people with a Class 1 licence, they want people with experience and skill.” Ouellette also commended the AMTA for the re-launch of the Partners in Compliance program, which recognizes carriers who excel in safety compliance allowing drivers to bypass all 12 weigh stations in the province.

Initiated in 1996, the PIC program eventually fell by the wayside in 2003 as carriers were looking for more of a return on their time and investment as PIC members.

The AMTA began resurrecting the program last February with the hiring of Lane Kranenburg to administer the program. After extensive fine-tuning and improved incentives, the AMTA was set to re-introduce the program in May.

The self-assessment volunteer program ensures carriers are in line with industry safety standards, allowing participating drivers to bypass all 12 weigh stations in the province.

“This program is run independently of the government, so the government can focus on targeting unsafe carriers,” added Ouellette. “We’re pleased to partner with the AMTA in this important safety initiative.”

As industry programs move forward, two pieces of regulation will be kept in the wings until further consultations are undergone.

The provincial government received a lot of feedback regarding changes to hours-of-service legislation and Ouellette told the crowd his ministry is “not rushing into a decision just yet.”

New federal HoS legislation went into effect on Jan. 1, and while only a few provinces were able to adapt to the change at the same time, most provinces committed to bringing provincial legislation in line during the spring of 2007.

Alberta remained the only province not to set a deadline for changing its hours-of-service legislation to match federal regulations and the province is still unsure of when new rules will be implemented.

The minister gave no timeline for when changes will be made to the current legislation, but noted with the large amount of feedback from both sides of the argument he still needs to speak with a number of industry stakeholders.

“We want to be sure we take time to develop regulations and standards that will benefit everyone and still provide the safety requested by your industry,” he explained.

As for speed limiter legislation in the province, Ouellette said it might be a possibility down the road, but for now the ministry is taking a wait-and-see approach.

The proposal mandating speed limiters in trucks created great controversy throughout the industry and government.

While provincial associations across the country have endorsed the proposal – put together by the Ontario Trucking Association – only the governments of Ontario and Quebec have put serious consideration to the proposal.

“We’ve basically parked it for a while. Once we have a better understanding of the issues we may examine it in the future.”

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