Stricter driver training standards coming to British Columbia

April 1, 2021

Greg Grisolano

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New commercial drivers in British Columbia will be held to an even higher standard, as the province plans to introduce a mandatory entry-level training program in October.

The program will exceed the minimum requirements set by the National Safety Code Standard for entry-level training of Class 1 drivers, according to a news release issued by the provincial government.

“Having mandatory entry-level commercial vehicle training will result in better-trained new drivers and improved road safety for everyone in British Columbia,” said Rob Fleming, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “We’ve worked collaboratively with the trucking industry to create a new MELT program for B.C. that will strengthen the industry and prepare drivers to operate safely across B.C.’s challenging climates. This training will ensure new commercial drivers are trained to a higher, consistent standard.”

The new standards will become a prerequisite for Class 1 road testing starting Oct. 18. B.C.’s program will include best practices from other Canadian jurisdictions and emphasize safe operating practices for mountainous geography and diverse driving conditions.

Existing B.C. Class 1 drivers will be exempt from the new training.

“Mandatory training for those operating the largest vehicles on our roads will improve safety across B.C.,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. “MELT is a vital step to furthering the success our province has seen in reducing traffic fatalities in recent years.”

The program includes a minimum required number of practical behind-the-wheel driving hours, in-yard hours and theoretical instructional hours. ICBC is the regulatory body for driver training schools and instructors in B.C. and is consulting with the commercial driving industry, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Public Safety, and the solicitor general to finalize the curriculum, the news release states.

The new standards were met with support from Safer Roads Canada, which has pushed for additional regulations following a 2018 crash between a semitruck driver and a bus transporting the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. Sixteen people were killed and 13 more were injured as a result of the crash, which spurred several Canadian provinces to require mandatory entry-level training for commercial truck drivers.

U.S. driver training rule on hold until 2022

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s driver training rule is on hold until February of next year.

Rather than roll out the entry-level driver training rule in phases, as proposed in 2019, the FMCSA opted in February 2020 to punt the implementation of the entire rule for two more years.

Unlike the Canadian rules, the U.S. driver training standard does not include a specified amount of time required for behind-the-wheel training for either the range or on-road training. Instead, the agency opted for a proficiency-based approach that will accommodate individuals who learn at different paces. Trainers will be required to check off on a list of skills as each is mastered.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a longtime proponent of a driver training standard, said the delay “contradicts” safety. LL

Land Line Managing Editor Jami Jones contributed to this report.

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Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.