WINNIPEG, Man. – Manitoba’s Minister of Infrastructure, Ron Schuler, announced today that the province will implement mandatory entry-level driver training (MELT) starting Sept. 1.
Schuler said aspiring commercial drivers will be required to complete 121.5 hours of training, though how that training will be administered had not yet been laid out.
“It’s a great first step when it comes to increasing road safety, but we don’t have any specifics on program detail,” said Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) executive director Terry Shaw. “What is the curriculum going to look like? What are the regulations around schools, instructors, and a whole host of other stuff…what are they all going to look like?”
The MTA has engaged in discussions with the provincial government what the curriculum of a MELT program should look like when it comes to in-class, on-road, and in-yard instruction.
“We don’t know, but we believe they are very closely going to mirror Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said Shaw. “If they do that, that’s something we’ve accepted as a political reality. Would we like to see some higher training? Sure, but we accept the political reality of our industry and our government partners.”
Shaw said the MTA will work with the government’s proposed 121.5 hours of training, examine the evidence and results of that amount of education, and let it guide future decisions.
He added that in order for the program to be successful it must be delivered effectively by appropriate educators and have proper oversight.
“And that is that level of detail that we just don’t have right now,” said Shaw.
The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) also voiced its support for today’s announcement.
PMTC president Mike Millian said he is pleased to see Manitoba join Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario in making Class 1 driver training mandatory.
“The PMTC has been involved in consultations in all of these jurisdictions and have long been in favor of making commercial driver training mandatory,” said Millian, adding that the PMTC will continue to work with various industry stakeholders on an entry-level training standard that can be used as a baseline for a national MELT program.
Though he touted today’s announcement as a good first step, Shaw said training needs to go further if the province is going to find and train the best commercial drivers it has to offer.
“In terms of a pre-licensing standard, having something rather than nothing is fantastic,” he said. “But when it comes to the actual employability of a truck driver, we need to look beyond pre-licensing training and need to look at pre-employment training.”
In Manitoba, there is a standard for pre-employment training that is currently six weeks, with 244 hours of pre-licensing and pre-employment, with post-licensing and post-employment training that follows.
“Having people come to their licensing exams, and assume pass the exam, with some training as opposed to no training is a great first step,” said Shaw. “But for the majority in our industry, 121.5 hours probably doesn’t cut it.
“Raising the legal minimum is good, but our industry’s safety record is the way it is because the vast majority in our industry doesn’t work down to the minimum standard, they work well above the minimum standard.”
Manitoba Public Insurance and Manitoba Infrastructure are governing pre-licensing training. The MTA aims to provide input on the details of this training, and are also working with Manitoba Education and Training on pre-employment and vocational training for those who want to work as truck drivers, as opposed to people who are looking to secure a Class 1 licence.
As for the costs associated with MELT programs, Shaw said the commercial driving profession needs to be recognized nationally as a skilled trade, which would mean students would be eligible for grants to help pay for tuition.
“There are huge levels of support for vocational training, and truck driver needs to be looked at in the exact same fashion,” said Shaw. “The occupation of truck driver is a vocation. Manitoba Labour Market information clearly shows that of 500 listed occupations in Manitoba, truck driver is in the top 1%. There are only four occupations with higher net job openings.”
Manitoba does currently fund commercial driver training, along with other occupations, like carpenters, welders, and cooks.
Shaw would like to see this trend spread across all jurisdictions.
“At the end of the day, a Class 1 licence doesn’t qualify you to work as a truck driver any more than showing up on a jobsite with a hammer qualifies you to work as a carpenter,” said Shaw. “We need these people coming not only with the minimum tools, but with a knowledge and skill set. That is no different post-MELT than it was pre-MELT.”
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