The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has called out Alberta’s truck driver training program for being “woefully inadequate,” and part of the reason why the province’s drivers have difficulty obtaining insurance.
"Alberta's insurers simply don't have the confidence that the MELT program is adequately preparing drivers for our roadways," said IBC vice president Aaron Sutherland.
The province’s Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) offers about 120 hours of truck training. Meanwhile, the Class 1 MELT program consists of 40.5 hours of classroom instruction, 15.5 hours of in-yard instruction, 57 hours of behind the wheel training, and 8.5 hours of air-brake training.
But the IBC says this is insufficient for trainees. According to Sutherland, the 120-hour program does not compare to the more than 600 hours of in-class and behind-the-wheel training in other provinces.
"It's more of an orientation and it's not a safe-driving program,” Sutherland told CBC News.
The vice president also pointed out that MELT has several issues that prevent it from attracting more drivers to operate in Alberta. Chief among the problems is the program’s prohibitive cost.
"The cost of MELT is about $10,000 per driver. That's quite high compared to other jurisdictions and provinces, where it can be $1,000,” explained Sutherland, who suggested that the government should either subsidize or reduce the cost of the program to increase its accessibility.
IBC also wants to see MELT offer more courses that deal with the hazardous aspects of truck driving, such as driving over difficult terrain and how to safely haul dangerous cargo. Sutherland also said that Alberta needs to start treating truck driving as a skilled trade.
"Hairdressers have a more rigorous training program than commercial truckers do," the vice president quipped.