February 9th 2019
Munden Ventures Ltd operates a mobile truck and trailer repair shop in Kamloops, BC and also provides trucking and transportation services throughout British Columbia. Being involved in the transportation industry as a family business for many years has given us some perspective on the way this industry operates in Canada. Our goal is to bring more value to this industry and the sectors we serve by engaging in emerging issues and innovations. We fulfill this mission in a few ways - but safety and quality of services are always central to our goals. Today, we want to have a discussion about minimum levels of training for commercial drivers in Canada and why Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) will benefit the transportation industry.
There is currently no minimum level of training required to become a commercial driver in most of Canada. While that sounds absurd, the truth is that passing a road test and limited knowledge test is all you need to do to "hit the road" in units weighing up to 63,500 kg or more.
Even for those drivers who do go the route of training through a driving school, it is commonly agreed by trucking companies that, even after graduating an accredited class 1 driver training program, most students are not qualified to actually enter the workforce as a driver. Often times, driving schools train students to a standard to pass the provincial driving test standard (administered by ICBC in British Columbia) - very much a minimum standard. This is no criticism of the driving schools. Offering training to a higher standard simply would have such little demand that it would not make business sense for them to offer it.
The industry has been increasingly demanding the adoption of a MELT (Mandatory Entry Level Training) standard to increase the qualifications of a graduating student to actually be able to safely enter the industry. The federal government, after years of urging from the trucking industry, has finally announced the adoption of a federal MELT standard, to be implemented by 2020. Unfortunately, it took the Humboldt tragedy, 16 lives and a public outcry to finally move this forward. Provincial government adoption and implementation of MELT programs will be something to keep an eye on, as driver licensing is most often a provincial matter.
Ontario has had a MELT program in place for some time, requiring students to complete a program which includes a minimum 103.5 hours of in-class and in-cab instruction. Since Humboldt, other provinces have either made commitments to adopt a MELT program or begin development of a program. Unfortunately, British Columbia has been very slow to make a firm commitment to MELT, despite the leadership shown by other provinces and the common sense logic that says it is needed.
Raising training and entry standards may, on the surface, seem counter-intuitive. After all, if we are already facing a driver shortage, how can raising the requirements with a Mandatory Entry Level Training standard possibly help to solve a driver shortage issue? A MELT program does a number of things:
At the end of the day, it would seem intuitive that professional drivers should undergo comprehensive training considering the complexities of operating a piece of equipment like a modern tractor-trailer unit. Continued lobbying for nation-wide adoption of MELT standards is crucial to helping address the driver shortage crisis. In BC, we should expect nothing less of our provincial government for the good of the industry, the professional driver and the general public.
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