No MELT exemptions for Alberta farm or bus drivers

by Truck News-West

EDMONTON, Alta. – Following public criticism, including from some family members of those killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy, the Alberta government will no longer consider exempting some commercial drivers from mandatory entry-level training (MELT) or re-testing.

A September report in the Globe and Mail had indicated that the province would ease its testing standards for some drivers in the farming and bus sectors.

The issue revolved around a possible exemption to drivers being deemed “transition drivers,” as well as farm and bus drivers called “extension drivers” from having to retake the MELT knowledge and road tests. Transition drivers are any Class 1 or 2 driver who acquired their license between Oct. 11, 2018 and Feb. 28, 2019, while extension drivers are farm and bus drivers who earned their license March 1 and beyond.

Drivers in these categories received a letter in the mail from Driver Programs and Licensing Standards with details about their driving record and whether they would be required to retake MELT-enhanced knowledge and road tests to retain their commercial license.

And, as Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) president Chris Nash explained, drivers in the agriculture sector were looking to have these exemptions permanent – which the AMTA does not support.

Reports now indicate that the government is no longer considering separate training standards for Class 1 and Class 2 farming and school bus drivers. Transition and extension drivers will also no longer receive any exemptions from MELT re-testing or training.

Alberta Transport Minister Ric McIver wrote on Facebook that after meeting with some Humboldt families, his government was looking for ways to “hold these 6,800 drivers to a zero-tolerance safety standard with a probationary period.”

The 6,800 drivers McIver is referring to are those who received their Class 1 or 2 license between Oct. 11, 2018 and Feb. 28, 2019, which followed the announcement of MELT, but was before the program became law.

McIver continued, writing, “Following our conversation with the families, we have decided that transition drivers will be placed on two years’ probation, in addition to an already required clean driving record. If they receive an infraction of any kind within their two-year probation, they will be automatically required to retest under MELT.”

McIver added in an Op-Ed in the Calgary Herald that neither farmers nor school bus drivers will be permanently exempted, and following the two-year probation, the new training rules will take effect.

In February, the previous Alberta government extended the deadline for farm workers to comply with the MELT program. After consultation with the agriculture industry, the previous government said it granted the exemption to those in the sector “to avoid undue pressure on seeding and harvesting operations this year.”

The Alberta government still encouraged farmers and farm workers to complete the MELT program before acquiring their Class 1 or 2 driver’s license, but that it would not be mandatory during the 2019 farming season.

In a response to the argument that farm truck drivers only move their product short distances, Toby Boulet, who lost his son Logan in the Humboldt tragedy, wrote on Twitter, “Just driving a short distance from your home or farm! This is a ridiculous argument. Watch the reports and decide for yourself. Everyone is on the same road. It is becoming an argument about economics. The value of a load of grain and a life. I know where I stand.”

At the time, McIver had said on Facebook that the farming and school bus driving professions are highly flexible and seasonal industries.

Some family members of those killed in the Humboldt collision traveled to Edmonton to oppose the proposed re-testing exemptions to transition and extension drivers.

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  • I believe Saskatchewan should be at least as aggressive in driver training as Albert is promoting. Farmers and bus drivers should require the same testing and training as any other large truck driver does. Most accident happen within 10 miles of home. So any argument that farmers only drive short distances is bogus. It doesn’t matter how far away from home an untrained driver is, if he/she causes an accident. It does matter if he/she’s trained properly to avoid that accident. We are farmers, and we own large trucks and trailers to get our crops in and off the ground. We need to be as well prepared to avoid accidents, injury, destruction of equipment and yes, fatal injuries. Driving in your own territory, on your service roads, repetitively, creates complacency. No amount of training and retesting is too much, when it can save a life or loss.

  • It really scares me that Ric McLier says whatever the media wants to hear just to please them. I know for a fact that all new Class 1 wannabes are still getting that ‘review’ letter even before they pass the first Class 1 road test! Two buddies of mine just failed the new MELT re-test, could not pass it but they received the letter saying they are good to go – they don’t have to re-test again!

  • So here is my predicament.
    Have a small family farm, no employees other than wife and son. Might get a neighbor for a couple days peak periods.
    Have a Class 2 (bus) with air for a long time now.
    Is it really fair that I have to spend close to 10K to upgrade that license to Class 1
    My opinion is that the MELT program wouldn’t have prevented the Humboldt tragedy. The program is a knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy.

    • The problem is a large number of people are getting truck driver permits without enough training. If you are just driving to a local small elevator that is one thing but some farms have seven to 15 trucks and go on major roads and city traffic. The real solution is no foreign truck drivers until a proper response is in place. The C T A is trying to push farmers away from owning their trucks.

    • I completed my class 1 before the new melt program, it still cost me well over $1000 dollars to do, not to mention missed time off work. I only need to run it on my farm, people must think farmers make so much money, because I can tell you right now theres no friggin way I can dish up 10 grand for a course where there gonna tell me the exact same thing they did when I did my class 1 before. Its sad they bring the humbolt crash into it everytime.

  • So they can ruin the lives of the people who got there license before the melt program started, maybe if I bitch and whine enough I can get my way. seems to work with everything. if there gonna change the rules 47 times then make every single god damn class 1 driver retest and take the program. seems pretty unfair that I got my class 1, but then to have them turn around and take it away because emotions got in the way. call me what you want, but accidents WILL STILL HAPPEN!!!!

    • Yes I agree I didnt have enough money to get training to do one dumb backing drive fine paid 5000 for training now i failed the driving back up twice I am.fucked and cant afford 10000 for the new program to teach me stuff I know just couldnt do the pp park I am.going to fight this to the end we need ever one too

  • I think it’s sickening to take away a class 1 that first place worked hard to get it and went through all training then got it pulled under them, we got jobs with the class 1 and have to loose the job and can’t afford the training just because we have young families and the economy is not good as is.
    Can’t understand why they decided to go back and yanked licence away, can see any new drivers but not going back.
    All the testing is not about safety how they call it it’s all about how you can name off the motor parts and if you can’t back into a stall, if they want to blame it on Humbolt accident the truck went through a stop and all that a super expensive course will not stop just because we are all humans and make mistakes.
    It seems transportation always gets picked on must be easy money, there’s still more death with cars than big rigs by far,
    I think the transportation where listening to people that where hurting and why not pick on the Truck drivers.
    Like the one said he spent $5000 and did one wrong thing and that money is out the window, I would say that’s so sad that government are not helping the working people instead taking away all the chances they have.
    Maybe should contact the media, that’s so wrong what they are doing.
    People forget all that is in your house and on your table it’s brought to you by a trucker while you are sleeping in your warm bed they are away from families and sacrificing they’re life just for you.
    I wish truckers would say this is enough like some countries and stop all transportation that people would see how important they are not just listen to a one sided story from people that are most likely not making they’re living with a truck.
    Sometimes I wonder why there are truckers with the little money they do and get picked on all the time.

  • I think Rick Mclver made a goog decision for transition drivers it was the only logical decision he could do it doesn’t make sense to give a new driver a class 1 license and tell him he has to re test in the future to make him a better driver if the driver cant pass the drivers exam dont give him the lic all transition drivers took the same drivers test the every other trucker in Alberta was required to take over several years however I know all driver test examiners are not created equal I think more pressure should be put on the driver examiners to make sure the new driver does have the skill to be safe on the roads

  • Class 1 Melt is a flop, so the bronco driver will not make a claim against Alberta Transportation, to be so negligent, for not implementing it since 2009 in the Basic Drivers guide letter Code K for people who do the Road test in an automatic. As reason they mention class ^ no automatic transmission???

    Like Ontario they will have soon Class 1 Melt in Automatic again, but without using the letter code “K” it can not last long until we have the next Bronco accident.
    So why are you wrecking down the economy with useless negligence of Government not doing what is, since 2009 in their Regulation and on the Old Dl to see on the back?
    Until now they have difficulties to follow up the demand on class 1,2+3 road test(only 30 available for all Alberta), most examiners are only eligible to test Cl4.5+6