The head of the Manitoba Trucking Association says the province is ahead of others on training, but there is still room for improvement.
Although the training for pre-licensed truck drivers has been changed within the last couple of years, only five provinces out of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories have changed their prerequisite training for licensing truck drivers.
There has been a lot of discussion about safety in trucking since a recent World-Spectator article in which a driver told a judge in Moosomin that he was speeding in an 80 km/h zone on his first trip because he was unable to properly slow his truck as he had not been trained to drive a semi with a full load.
“Today in Canada we see mandatory entry level driver training (MELT) which in most provinces is a 121.5 hours training course,” said Aaron Dolyniuk, executive director of Manitoba Trucking Association.
“Our industry for a long time prior to that (MELT standard), had no minimum standard. Basically once you had your Class 1 written knowledge test done, you can then go challenge a road test.”
The Canadian MELT requirement is a minimum of 121.5 hours of knowledge training, that individuals must take before they can apply for their Class 1 road test.
“There was no mandatory training (before) so the governments and provinces put together a standard, and prior to that, it was something our industry asked for a long time because you know, driving a truck is not an easy job and to be a professional driver takes skills, training, and mentorship,” said Dolyniuk
Despite this being added as a standard for commercial vehicles to operate safely—under the National Safety Code (NSC) of Canada—not all provinces included it in their mandatory training for truck drivers.
Within the last three years, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, B.C., and Alberta, have been the only provinces to implement the MELT standard as a mandatory requirement into their truck driver licensing training.
“A Class 1 licensing allows you to drive anywhere in Canada, but your vehicle registration allows you to drive wherever you’re registered to drive. Here in Manitoba, we have a course that is 121.5 hours and we also offer a training course of 244 hours,” said Dolyniuk.
Shortly after the 2018 Humboldt Broncos tragedy, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators included MELT as a standard to be part of the NSC.
In Saskatchewan, the training requirements for Class 1 commercial license is to take a minimum of 121.5 hours of training before individuals can apply for their road test. The training is broken down into a minimum of 47 classroom hours, 17.5 hours in the yard and 57 hours behind the wheel.
Some provinces like B.C and Manitoba, have exceeded the minimum of 121.5 hours in their training. In B.C., the mandatory MELT program is 140 hours and in Manitoba, drivers have the option between two programs. One is a mandatory MELT 121.5 hours program, and the other is their existing 244 hour Professional Truck Training course, offered by private vocational institutes in Manitoba, which would fulfil the MELT requirement according to Manitoba Public Insurance.
“We have always promoted that the 244 hour program should be the MELT standard, the mandatory standard because we felt that even in 244 hours it would be nice to have more time. Getting a good amount of time behind the wheel is important, and getting a good length of time to learn all you need to do is definitely important as well,” said Dolyniuk.
“The biggest piece of the training is when you’re looking at 121.5 hours versus 244 hours, is when you look at the time it takes to learn how to drive a vehicle and go from driving an automobile to a commercial truck, it’s more time and more ability to understand everything.”
“From trip inspection, to how the air brake system works, the criteria and the content is the same, you just have more opportunity to learn hands on, in person, working around the truck, behind the wheel, and in classroom, there’s more opportunity for all of those things put together.”
The Manitoba Trucking Association oversees its members in the trucking industry of the province, and advocates for a safe and healthy environment for their industry members.
Dolyniuk said the association works with the government on deciding what training is required, but they do not have an overall say on the mandatory requirements for training.
“It’s a conversation, the government holds the power and the standard, so we were consulted but we were not given carte blanche access to create it,” he said.
“We were consulted about what it (training) looked like, but basically they said here’s what we want to do, what are we going to do in these 121.5 hours. So, we worked with our province and Manitoba Public Insurance to tailor that training for Manitoba, so people in the industry and so forth. That being said, people in the industry have promoted the 244 hour program because we feel there is more opportunity to learn all that you need to learn.”
The 244 hour program offered by private vocational institutes in Manitoba, is referred to as a “pre-employment training” where as the MELT program is more of a “pre-licensing training” program, said Dolyniuk. He also said he thinks the MELT requirement is a minimum standard of getting a license, but should not be viewed as an employable standard.
“The pre-employment training there’s a bit more opportunities to learn about some of the paperwork and so forth.”
Dolyniuk commented in regards to the recent incident in Moosomin, where a semi driver was clocked going 115 km/h in an 80 km/h zone at Moosomin. The driver told the judge he didn’t have the skills to slow the semi as his training did not prepare him to slow or stop a semi carrying a fully loaded trailer. The maximum ticket the individual could have received for the speed he was going was $548. The RCMP officer wrote the ticket for $190. The judge reduced the fine to $100.
“Well I’m not going to comment on a specific situation but my understanding is that some of the training includes loaded vehicles and unloaded vehicles, it’s both so I think they get an opportunity to understand what the differences here is in Manitoba. So I can’t speak to what that driver said or what he’s doing, but at the end of the day that’s what they’re saying.”
Overall Dolyniuk said the safety of semi-drivers is adequate, but he does think there is room for improvement.
“Statistically semi-drivers are safer than all drivers, to what I recall from Manitoba Public Insurance accident statistics. That being said, I think there’s always room for improvement for safety initiatives, whether it be increased training, whether it be working with companies to do on the job training, because I think a thing that’s really important is just because you have a Class 1 license doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a professional driver. A professional driver is someone that has built up experience and knowledge over time, that has the knowledge and the skills to be a driver, having a license doesn’t mean you’re a professional driver.”
He said the trucking association is always looking to improve their training and is working with the government for more support from companies, to teach drivers.
“We are working with our government partners to look at ways to improve driver training and supports for drivers.”
“A big part of that is we’d like to see some supports for on the job training, to ensure that there is mentorship programs available for drivers because like I said, a big part of becoming a truck driver is you get your license but then it’s on the job training. You’re not a professional driver right off the hop, you need some experience and you need some mentorship from somebody that knows the ropes because every company is different, equipment is different, locations are different, geography is different, so it takes time to build all the knowledge and get all the knowledge and skills needed to be a professional driver.”