The provincial government has opened a pair of avenues that will make getting a Class 1 driver’s licence easier for some.
New training rules — called Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) — were brought in following the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, which killed 16 people in April 2018. The accident prompted reviews of driver training standards in the trucking industry throughout Canada. To obtain a Class 1 licence, which is needed to drive a tractor trailer, requires 113 hours of training, which can cost up to $10,000. (Drivers who already had Class 1 licences were exempted and allowances made for those in the process of getting one.)
The high cost, along with a backlog for training and testing, concerned farm groups in the province, that were saying the new rules would exacerbate the shortage of drivers.
The province is addressing those concerns in two ways.
One is the new Experience and Equivalency Class 1 MELT Program. It allows Class 3 drivers with a minimum of two years of experience the opportunity to take a 40-hour Class 1 training upgrade instead of the 113-hour program for new drivers. To qualify, a person must apply to Alberta Transportation “to ensure they have the needed experience,” the province said in a news release. After completing the reduced training, applicants must also pass the Class 1 MELT knowledge and road tests.
The other provincial initiative is the Driving Back to Work grant. The $3-million program will cover up to 90 per cent of the cost of the MELT training for 300 unemployed Albertans. (For more information on both programs, go to www.alberta.ca and search for ‘melt licence.’)
“These changes do not affect the high training and safety standards required by MELT in order to keep Alberta’s roads safe,” the government said.
The two measures were welcomed by Team Alberta, a coalition of the wheat, barley, canola and pulse commissions.
“We welcome the new experience equivalency Class 1 MELT program since it recognizes the strong history of driving experience that most farm workers, who are often family members, already have,” Alberta Wheat chair Todd Hames said in a release.
But both the farm groups and province acknowledged there aren’t enough drivers with Class 1 licences, with the government saying there is expected to be a shortage of 3,600 commercial truck drivers by 2023.
“The need for Class 1 driver’s licences on farms will continue to grow as farms expand, efficiencies improve and crop yields increase,” said Alberta Canola chair John Guelly.