Ag industry impacted by mandatory Class 1 driver training and re-training deadline

By Dori Modney with files from Alberta Canola Producers Commission
February 7, 2019 - 10:17pm

LETHBRIDGE -- In roughly three weeks, changes will be enforced for those seeking Class 1 (tractor trailer) or Class 2 (bus) licences and some segments of the agriculture industry are likely to see a negative impact.

On March 1, anyone needing one of these licences will be compelled to undergo mandatory entry-level training in order to apply for their licence.  As well, any driver who obtained a Class 1 or 2 licence between October 10, 2018 and March 1, 2019, will be required to retake the new enhanced road test in March.

A group of industry producers have joined forces, dubbing themselves ‘Team Alberta’, in an effort to impress upon the government the need for leeway over an issue that could further harm their sectors.

The Alberta Canola Producers Commission is asking the provincial government to consult with the agriculture sector to establish a reasonable deadline, to avoid unintended consequences for farmers who rely on seasonal labour.  The current provincial shortage of skilled farm labour, combined with changes to the privately-run licensing bodies, means training programs are difficult to get into. Farmers won’t be able to hire properly trained and licensed drivers before seeding commences.

While the agriculture industry supports the need for safer and highly skilled drivers, Alberta Wheat Commission Vice-Chair, Hannah Konschuh, notes the down-side of the new regulations.

“The timelines and lack of consultation with farmers would make it virtually impossible to comply with new regulations by the deadline. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to have been an increase in the training capacity to accommodate this big change.”

Konschuh’s comments are echoed by Alberta Canola Vice-Chair, Kevin Serfas, of Turin.

“We fully support the need for proper training and safety on our roads and highways - we get where this came from. Our Board meeting after Humboldt was very emotional as my family and others in Alberta Canola had direct connections to players on that team.”

Alberta Barley Chair, Dave Bishop, underscores the fact that the new regulations are needed. However, there’s an issue with the short timeline.

“These regulations will have an immediate impact on farms in the short-term if they don’t already have Class 1 drivers in place for this year. Longer-term, we need to ensure there is appropriate training for the increasing number of farms that rely on Class 1 drivers and their ability to attract them to agriculture.”

Don Shepert, Chair of the Alberta Pulse Growers, says, “We ask the government to work with us so we can seed our crops and comply with necessary training requirements.”

If the government doesn’t address the problem, the regulation changes will make access to skilled labour much more difficult in an already tight market.

More information on the mandatory Class 1 training regulation can be found on the Alberta Government website.

 

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