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Alta. industry groups raise concerns over MELT

Alta. industry groups raise concerns over MELT

In a letter to the Alberta premier, industry groups outline six concerns about the training program

 
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Recently, representatives of 13 Alberta farm organizations signed a letter to Premier Jason Kenney regarding their concerns about the Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) for new Class 1 and 2 commercial drivers.

Representatives of Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Pork, Potato Growers of Alberta, Alberta Sugar Beet Growers, Alberta Oat Growers Commission, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, Alberta Chicken Producers, Alberta Hatching Egg Producers and Alberta Milk signed the letter.

The letter outlines six changes for the government to consider to ensure drivers, including farmers, can meet the qualifications for MELT.

“We want to get to that shared safety outcome at the end of the day, but just we need some flexibility to make sure that the implementation of it is not a barrier,” said Karla Bergstrom.

She is the manager of government and industry affairs with Alberta Canola.

Industry representatives asked the government to postpone the MELT deadlines because of the disruption from the pandemic, said Bergstrom.

“When the pandemic hit, there were still a number of those extension drivers who were working through the process of either getting their Class 1 or applying to challenge the Class 1 through the MELT knowledge test or the MELT road test. When everything was shut down, it further delayed that process,” she told Farms.com.

Industry representatives asked government officials to move the deadline to apply for an extension to comply with the MELT program to Dec. 31, 2020. The reps also asked for a new deadline of Sept. 1, 2021 to pass the MELT knowledge and road test.

Ag reps requested that the government treat agriculture extension drivers who completed their pre-MELT Class 1 license before the pandemic the same as transition drivers.

“Is there a way for the government to look at those drivers who have clean driving records and treat them the same as those transition drivers who got their Class 1 just before the MELT training program became a requirement?” asked Bergstrom.

In the letter, the industry representatives also raised financial concerns.

“One of the biggest factors was the financial hardship to put the drivers through MELT because they had the $10,000 cap on the tuition. When the training and testing offered is not necessarily always within proximity of the rural communities of some of these drivers, then you have an added expense of putting them up to go and get the training and testing,” said Bergstrom.

To help with this cost, industry representatives asked the government to recognize Class 1 commercial truck drivers as a skilled occupation, thus allowing drivers to access Alberta Student Aid.

“When you look at programs like this, the onus needs to be on the drivers. It's no different than a hairdresser. They pay their tuition fees, they go through their training and then they go work in a salon. The salon is not paying for those hairdressers to go through their training programs,” said Bergstrom.

Next, the industry reps asked the government to expand the Canada-Alberta Job Grant (CAJG) criteria.

“Because (the CAJG is) only eligible to corporate farms and because it's only eligible to non-family farm members, it really limits which farms can apply for that funding,” explained Bergstrom.

The industry reps also shared some options to help reduce the overall cost of the program, such as reducing the minimum instructional hours to align with Canada’s National Safety Code.

“Why is Alberta at 113 hours where the national standard is at 103.5 hours? Is there a way we can reduce the required number of hours?” asked Bergstrom.

Finally, the industry reps asked government officials to increase the number of testing locations throughout Alberta.

“This is just making sure that farmers and farm employees looking to get their Class 1 have equal access opportunities so they don't have to pay exorbitant amounts out of pocket to go and take a two- or three-week training program that's not in their location,” said Bergstrom.

While Alberta Government staff haven’t officially responded to the letter yet, Bergstrom was working staff to find solutions even before the industry reps sent their letter.

Farmers and the industry group reps believe drivers should have training to keep the roads safe, but industry reps would like the government to work with them to make this outcome possible, Bergstrom said.

“There was a limited opportunity to revisit this issue with the government because of the pandemic and that's really why we're bringing this to light now. Hopefully, we can work with the government to try and reduce some of these costs for farmers and increase safety overall,” said Bergstrom.

Libertygal/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

Comments (2)


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Please read the letter we’re asking for equal treatment for those with 2-years of clean driving ...from my understanding the driver responsible was only driving for 3 weeks, which is not comparable. The ag extension was granted when MELT was announced March 1, 2019. This program has only been available for 18 months to date (not 2 years as you state) and it took a few months for the new MELT to get up and running with major delays prior to the pandemic, then lose another 5+ months when everything shut down. The asks are reasonable. If you look to the south there are carve outs for agriculture (e.g. 100 mile exemptions), their entry-level training equivalent has been delayed another 2 years with no where near the red tape that we have. Canada’s is superior. We want the same outcome, just looking for some support to get there.
Karla |Oct 12 2020 6:18PM
In the interest of full disclosure - I am the owner of one of the training schools - and incidentally one of the only ones located in rural Alberta While I agree the pandemic situation did complicate things, I disagree with more extensions - this program has been available for 2 years. There will always be one more person who wants to get in -or one that can't get off their GDL. It has to end sometime. As for the idea of treating the drivers who received it under the extension the same as the transition drivers - please no - this was walked back in the legislature months ago. And not to dredge up the past but a clean abstract means nothing - the driver in the Humbolt tragedy had a clean abstract until he didn't. The transition drivers didn't have the option to take the MELT training - those that did it under the extension do. And there are options and flexibility of scheduling when it comes to the MELT program - according to Alberta Transportation policy and procedure a student has 1 calendar year from the date of enrolment to complete the MELT training course. Just because most schools insist you complete it in 3-6 weeks doesn't mean there aren't those who want to work with folks to make it sensible. As for changes to the status making this an occupation and having the funding available - a resounding YES PLEASE!! The term "dumb trucker" is derogatory and highly insulting - the men and women who pilot those trucks day in and day out are far from "dumb" and need to be recognized as "professional truck drivers"
Tammy |Oct 9 2020 10:13AM