Multiple Provincial and Territorial governments have been talking about Mandatory Entry Level training (MELT) the last several years, and it has been a hot topic at the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) meetings for at least as many. The topic gained more attention when Ontario announced in 2015 that they were going to mandate it in their province. (MELT for AZ drivers in Ontario came into effect on July 1st of 2017) The Humboldt tragedy has pushed this topic to the very forefront of the regulators and media’s attention again. Recently Alberta announced they would be introducing MELT, possibly as early as January of 2019, along with several other changes in regards to truck safety, and held stakeholder consultation sessions in Edmonton and Airdrie in July, which the PMTC attended.
Saskatchewan, while not as far along as Alberta, has announced they have been looking into it, and will be introducing some form of Mandatory Entry level training in the not to distant future. Manitoba and B.C. are also researching MELT, and all the Western Provinces have had initial discussions concerning a “Western MELT Framework”. The PMTC was one of the key stakeholders in the MELT consultations in Ontario and have lobbied Transport Canada to work on a National Framework for MELT for the last several years. As a lot of the people reading this column will know, getting a common regulation implemented across every Province and Territory in Canada is a challenge to say the least, and the patchwork of rules and regulations the industry is forced to work with as they travel across provincial boundaries is a major burden and expense. The CCMTA has done great work at bringing the feds and provinces together to discuss regulations and work towards common ground, however a lot of work still needs to be done on this front.
While the PMTC is encouraged that the different jurisdictions are talking, and that most appear to be reviewing the only MELT framework in place in North America right now, that of Ontario, which requires 103.5 hours of training, we are already hearing rumblings of massively different MELT hours being considered. This concerns us. 60 or 70 hours of training has already been floated by Saskatchewan and is a number we have heard being tossed around as a possible framework for the 4 Western Provinces. I hope this is not a number that is seriously being considered, as less than 2 weeks of training is woefully inadequate in our view. We have the opportunity to work together, build a common approach, and a framework that can be utilised for a training standard across the land. The Ontario standard is not perfect, and does need some refinement, however in our view, this should be looked at as a minimum standard, and one to be learned from and built upon. If we are serious about a MELT regime that will have a serious impact on road safety and increase the entry level skills of new drivers to the industry, we must work on a meaningful and robust standard, not just one that is better than nothing.
Let’s look at Ontario’s, keep what is working, build upon what time has so far show us isn’t working, and build a meaningful national Memorandum of understanding for MELT that all Provinces and Territories can be encouraged to utilize.
I don’t know if training was an issue in the Humboldt case, and I don’t know if MELT would have prevented these tragic events from occurring, but I do know it could not have hurt. Standardised mandatory training is needed for commercial drivers, and the time to raise the bar as to what is required to enter this industry as a driver, or an operator for that matter, needs to be raised. The requirements to get in have been far to low, for far to long. We are at a moment in time where there appears to be a will for mandatory commercial driver training in most regions of Canada, we have the opportunity to ensure we put a standard in place that is meaningful and workable across the land. Lets not waste it…..