In case you missed it, there are new rules and regulations regarding Class 1 driver training and licensing coming to Alberta March 1, 2019. The new rules — which significantly increase the number of training hours required to attain a Class 1 — were consulted on for one week last July.
News to you? You’re not alone. Producer representatives, from crop commissions, to livestock groups, were unaware a consultation occurred over the summer, and these new rules, with a late winter implementation are taking the farming industry by surprise.
Kevin Serfas, southern Alberta farmer and vice chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, says his organization is absolutely in favour of better training for drivers and improved safety on roads and highways; however, there are several aspects of these new regulations that will cause some issues. “We’ve only got 30 days until the new rules are in place. It’s just not logistically possible to have (new) drivers trained by spring seeding,” Serfas says.
There is concern in the farming industry that the provincial government vastly underestimated the impact these changes would have on farms, and thus didn’t work to consult with producer groups on the rules. Alberta Transport made a statement to the effect that “most farms” don’t need a Class 1, but Serfas says that statement couldn’t be more false.
“We did a poll of our board and 10 out of 12 directors have a Class 1 licence,” Serfas says, and that doesn’t fully account for farms that would use the services of someone with a Class 1. “We fear the information the Government of Alberta has about farms using mainly Class 3 licences is wrong.”
Agriculture is highly dependent on transporting its commodities and inputs with semi-tractor-trailer units, Serfas says, and legislation like this will have a dramatic impact on licensing, training, and access to new drivers. Driver training schools have long waitlists.
The new rules will mean fewer drivers will be licensed per year, in a province and industry that is already facing a qualified-driver shortage. As an example, a Grande Prairie driver school says that it is currently moving four drivers a week through training. Under the new rules, that number will drop to two drivers in as much as four weeks. The cost of training will also increase from about $3,400 for 20 hours of training to well over $10,000 for 120+ hours. For farms that hire seasonal employees ,this is a huge cost jump, especially when you take into account the turnover rate due to seasonal employment.
Serfas says that he’d like to see more time and consultation before the final rules come into force. “The issue is ag is getting lumped in with the commercial side of (licensing),” he says. Much of the added training is very commercial focused, such as training in regards to loading docks, and doesn’t necessary benefit drivers who would be exclusively working on farms. Instead of city/loading dock training, perhaps there needs to be driver training on non-paved roads, for example.
Listen below as Kevin Serfas and Shaun Haney discuss the driver training rule changes, what the producer groups are asking for, and how farms may be impacted.