The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA) says the Newfoundland and Labrador government is trying to sneak in a mandatory entry-level training (MELT) program for new truck drivers.
The province announced it is making it mandatory effective Jan. 3, 2024, for new commercial motor vehicle drivers to complete the program before being issued their Class 1 driver’s licence, according to a news release.
“We were surprised, and the announcement caught us off guard,” Chris McKee, APTA’s executive director told TruckNews.com, adding that the association was not consulted.
An official from the Department of Digital Government and Service NL noted that commercial driver training programs offered by College of the North Atlantic Bay St. George Campus, Canadian Training Institute in Bay Roberts and Central Training Academy in Badger, all meet the MELT standard.
“The current programs being offered by the above training institutions have been assessed by our Motor Registration Division (MRD) and it has been confirmed that the existing programs meet the minimum training requirements outlined in the National Safety Code (NSC) Standard 16,” the official told TruckNews.com.
“The Canadian Training Institute has advised that they will also be offering a more condensed version, in addition to its current program. This new condensed version has also been reviewed by MRD for compliance with the NSC Standard 16.”
The department made amendments to the Highway Traffic Driver Regulations, 1999, to add the requirement for entry-level driver training for Class 1 driver’s licences.
Implementation and oversight of MELT is a joint responsibility between the training institutions, the Department of Education and MRD said. “As of Jan. 3, 2024, MRD will not issue any new Class 1 driver’s licences without confirmation of successful completion of MELT,” the official said.
The APTA wants to ensure consistent standards across the province and a level playing field for those schools that are already providing training. “We don’t want to see a bunch of pop-up schools,” McKee said.
The department said private training institutions offering courses of 50 or more instructional hours are required to be registered by the Department of Education and are governed by the Private Training Institutes Act and Regulations.
The education department will consult with MRD if a new school applies to deliver MELT, reviewing the program outline for compliance. Existing private training schools who would like to offer MELT would have to go through a similar application process.
McKee said the APTA wants a common approach for the four Atlantic provinces so that “we don’t have a jurisdiction where it is easier for the pop-up schools to come in and offer lacklustre training.”
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. plans
TruckNews.com reached out to the other three Atlantic provinces regarding their plans for MELT.
Blaise Theriault, communications advisor at Communications Nova Scotia said, “Nova Scotia is currently consulting on how mandatory entry-level training for commercial drivers might work in Nova Scotia. We will have more information to share in the future.”
A New Brunswick government official said members of the trucking industry have been consulted and implementation will be overseen by the Motor Vehicle Branch of the Department of Justice and Public Safety.
Besides current truck driving institutions, the province will allow new schools to provide training.
In P.E.I., the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Highway Safety Division will oversee the implementation in early 2024, said Graham Miner, director of highway safety.
He said two schools will offer MELT – JVI Commercial Driving School and ASATA Safety and Commercial Driver Training. Other schools have the option of delivering training.
Driving instructor qualifications
McKee also raised the question of qualification requirements for driving instructors who will be training aspiring truckers.
The Department of Digital Government and Service NL official said Newfoundland and Labrador will follow guidelines set by NSC Standard 16. The instructor must have a valid Class 1 licence for three consecutive years and complete training, including communication proficiency and standardized assessment.
The N.B. official said instructors will be responsible to be familiar with the new curriculum that will be taught in schools across the province.
P.E.I.’s Miner said Highway Safety staff will continue to certify driving instructors and trainers and will continue to conduct commercial driver testing.
APTA’s McKee would also like to see an agreement for foreign drivers, especially if they can demonstrate driving skills. An upgraded, fast-track form of MELT would help ease financial and time barriers for these drivers, he said.
But the official from Department of Digital Government and Service NL said in the interest of public safety, everybody will have to complete MELT. If the program is completed in another province and meets NSC Standard 16, it will be recognized.
Graham said P.E.I. has an upgrading program for foreign workers employed by transportation companies to gain certification by the Highway Safety Division.
The N.B. official said it is likely that drivers who can demonstrate previous Class 1 driving experience may be able to take the tests without completing the mandatory training requirement.
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