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No relief for ag producers with MELT certification

Posted on May 4, 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

By Trevor Busch

Commentator/Courier

editor@tabertimes.com

Alberta’s government is removing mandatory entry level training (MELT) for Class 2 licensees to help alleviate bus driver shortages, but there is no relaxation currently planned for seasonal agricultural drivers in the province.

“MELT has caused a lot of problems not just for school bus drivers, but also for our farmers and ranchers here as well,” said Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter. “It’s been a big issue. And it’s caused a real problem for being able to get people to do it, we were already having struggles to find school bus drivers. So this is a common sense thing that we need to do. Obviously, we want people to be protected. And I know that’s what the intent of MELT was. The problem is, there has been a real problem with getting people MELT certified. And it’s very costly.”

On March 1, 2019, MELT became a new licensing requirement for Class 1 and Class 2 drivers. As of March 31, 2022, there were 147,134 Class 1 drivers and 24,699 Class 2 drivers in Alberta.

MELT certification has huge implications for the local agricultural industry in terms of training time and costs, especially during the fall harvest, but the province chose not to relax the requirement for the industry. 

“It’s just the school bus drivers right now. But I just want to talk about this issue, because this is a big issue for our area,” said Hunter. “I was talking to a farmer, maybe two years ago now, who said that he went and got three of his workers their MELT certification, and basically it was $10,000 each. Within the first week of them working a long-haul company had come in and offered a $15,000 signing bonus. And he lost all three of them, lost his $30,000 investment which was obviously bad. But the other part was that he was out being able to have drivers be able to get his work done on the farm. This is because there’s a shortage. This is the sort of thing that we don’t want to see happening, but it is happening.”

Examining other jurisdictions, Hunter is convinced that a different model might be much more effective for Alberta.

“Down in the States, they have not rolled out MELT. And they keep on pushing it off, pushing it off. So that’s a problem for us here. The Minister of Transportation at the time had said that we had to have this because it was being rolled out all across Canada, the United States, and then the United States kept on pushing it off. So why do we implement this stuff here first, and cause all sorts of disruptions and problems, and other jurisdictions don’t have to pay that same cost? It puts us at a competitive disadvantage. I think it comes back down to the cost benefit. I recognize why it was brought in and what the rationale was – but, let’s everybody be careful. The way we drive, make sure the training is there – proper training – that’s happening and make sure that there’s proper credentials as well.”

Alberta is the only province in Canada to mandate MELT for Class 2 licence holders.

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