EDMONTON, Alta. – In the face of the Alberta government’s budget cuts in an attempt to reduce provincial deficit, the local trucking association is applauding the decision to uphold all mandatory entry-level training (MELT) requirements for drivers.
The Alberta government has made several cuts for what it says is an effort to help balance a budget that became inflated during previous governments. Reductions will be seen in the public and health sectors, education, housing, and municipal funding.
The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA), however, will continue to push for several safety measures for the trucking industry, including a Safety Fitness Certificate renewal process for all carriers, HOS regulations, public document accessibility for carriers surrounding regulatory interpretations by Carrier and Vehicle Safety, and changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and Provincial Nominee Program.
The AMTA also said it will continue to advocate for infrastructure improvements, particularly rest stops, which help improve safety and the efficient transportation of goods.
“We applaud the construction of new rest areas in Alberta along the Yellowhead Highway and Hwy 2 at Wolf Creek,” said Chris Nash, president of the AMTA.
Nash also pointed out the reversal of a decision to close two highway rest areas north of Edmonton after government officials met with the AMTA and industry members.
“Safe rest areas are key,” said Nash, “and the association will continue to push for more rest area infrastructure for drivers transporting goods throughout the province.”
Other infrastructure projects at the top of the AMTA’s list of priorities include the twinning of Hwy 40 south of Grande Prairie, Hwy 881 and 63 from Grassland to Edmonton, Hwy 3 at Lethbridge, the Hwy 43X and 43 interchange, and extending the 116 Street truck route in Grande Prairie.
“Some of these projects were addressed in the budget,” said Nash, “and we look forward to continuing work with government on making all Alberta highways as safe as they can be for commercial transport and the motoring public.”
Moving forward, Nash said the association will respond to potential cuts on a case-by-case basis, acting as a “watch dog for industry.”
Despite cuts to the overall education budget in Alberta, one school was allocated a $10 million grant, which will help get more women in the province working in the trades.
Women Building Futures (WBF), which trains female students for employment in traditionally male-dominated occupations, including truck driving, says it will use the funding to expand its training in a sustainable way, including online learning and technologies to complement its in-person curriculum.
“We know anyone’s decision to choose a career or change a career path is not a quick one,” said WBF CEO Kathy Kimpton. “This funding will allow our team to increase supports for women through the exploration phase and application process of our programs.”
The school’s Class 1 and 3 driver training programs are both funded by industry partners, but Kimpton said recent government funding will help WBF provide support and resources women need to be successful in the program.
So far, 37 women have graduated from the four cohorts of the Class 1 driver training program at WBF – which aligns with the province’s MELT requirements – and their average increase in income has gone up 114%.
“As a non-profit, this investment ensures we have long-term funding available to expand our reach, continue to bring women through our programming, and help build life-changing careers,” said Kimpton. “Increasing awareness of training opportunities, championing women in under-represented careers, providing long-term and short-term support for women to explore and apply, and increasing accessibility of training material are all top of mind and require sustainable funding.”