Driving lesson

Stimulate injection of back-to-work grants, changes to MELT testing introduced by Alta. transport minister

The province is increasing grants supporting commercial truck training to help get more Albertans on the road while allowing drivers to take mandatory tests on their transmission choice starting in 2023.

Announced Thursday, Transport Minister Rajan Sawhney said the province would invest $30 million to support training for truck drivers over three years.

This includes $18 million to help 1,800 potential drivers complete mandatory entry-level training (MELT) to obtain a Class 1 license under the return-to-work program.

“This industry is a key driver of our economy,” Sawhney said. “Our government is committed to supporting our commercial transportation industry and helping unemployed Albertans get back to work.”

Over three years, $9 million will be used to encourage more women to enter the trucking industry, the province said.

The remaining $3 million will be used to develop online and virtual reality simulator training for commercial drivers.

By 2023, the province projects the shortage of commercial drivers will be about 12%, or about 3,600 drivers, which it says could put the province’s supply chain at risk, as more than 50 % of all goods in Alberta are delivered by truck.

Class 1 MELT programs are approximately 120 hours in length, including air brake training, with a mix of classroom, hands-on, and yard training. According to the government, the maximum a driving school can charge is $10,000 for this training.

Grant recipients have 90% of their Class 1 MELT covered. According to the province, since November 2020, 800 unemployed Albertans have obtained their licenses through the subsidized training program.

“This grant makes training and testing more affordable,” Sawhney said. “We are working hard to avoid future driver shortages.”

To date, the province has invested $8 million in the grant program.

“(This funding) will help break down barriers to careers in the commercial transportation industry and keep people and goods moving efficiently,” said Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, in a statement. communicated.

CHOICE OF TRANSMISSION FOR CLASS 1 TESTS

To make it easier for commercial drivers to obtain a Class 1 license, Sawhney announced that road tests could be carried out on an automatic or manual transmission from “early 2023”. Currently, testing can only be performed on manual transmission trucks.

“It’s something I’ve heard a lot about,” Sawhney added. “This change recognizes the reality of the modern trucking industry where more than half of the trucks on Alberta’s roads are equipped with automatic transmissions.”

Once the change takes effect, drivers tested on the automatic transmission would be limited to driving automatic commercial trucks. A condition code would be added to a driver’s license that can be removed if they pass another test on a manual transmission vehicle.

“Providing automatic transmission training is a positive step in addressing a shortage of truck drivers,” said Arshpreet Tiwana, principal of Skyward Driving School in Edmonton.

“This decision will open the door for more Albertans, including women, to pursue rewarding careers on the road.”