Safer, more skilled commercial drivers will be travelling B.C. roads with the implementation of mandatory entry-level training (MELT) for new Class 1 commercial driver’s licence applicants.

“Safety for everyone on our roads is always our top priority, and this new required driver training program will make our highways safer,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “A robust MELT program is just one of the ways we are committed to improving highway safety for all British Columbians.”

Effective Oct. 18, 2021, individuals applying for a B.C. Class 1 driver’s licence must successfully complete an ICBC-approved Class 1 MELT course before attempting a road test. B.C.’s MELT program was developed through a review of best practices from other Canadian jurisdictions and with input from industry in British Columbia. It was designed to align with the Standard 16-Class 1 Entry-Level Training framework introduced as part of the National Safety Code in February 2020.

“British Columbia’s new MELT program is an important step toward improving overall commercial vehicle safety across Canada,” said Lawrence and Ginny Hunter, Safer Roads Canada board members whose 18-year-old son Logan was fatally injured in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash. “Truck and bus drivers operate some of the heaviest vehicles on our roads through a variety of climates and on challenging routes. The risks are present every day for these workers, but programs like MELT help to mitigate these risks and prevent accidents.”

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure led consultations with the commercial driving industry, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and ICBC to finalize the curriculum. As the regulator of driver training schools and instructors in B.C., ICBC will oversee training facilities and investigate matters related to driving schools that deliver the Class 1 MELT course, as well as training courses for other driver’s licence classes.

“Our mandatory entry level training program teaches new drivers how to handle B.C.’s difficult terrain and actually exceeds the minimum requirements set by the National Safety Code Standard for Class 1 entry-level training,” said Lindsay Matthews, vice-president of public affairs and driver licensing, ICBC. “By harmonizing our program with other provinces, new commercial drivers in British Columbia will be able to smoothly and confidently operate across Canada.”

B.C.’s Class 1 MELT program requires 140 total hours and includes more practical behind-the-wheel driving hours, in-yard hours, and theoretical instructional hours than Standard 16 of the National Safety Code. In addition to 50 hours on-highway and 37 hours in-yard and around the vehicle, B.C. has 15.5 hours of theoretical and hands-on air brake training, almost double the 8.5 hours required by Standard 16 of the National Safety Code.

“The BCTA was pleased to contribute to the development of B.C.’s new Class 1 entry-level training program because ensuring new commercial drivers are trained to a higher, consistent standard will save lives,” said Dave Earle, president and CEO, BC Trucking Association. “Better trained operators will make better decisions and fewer mistakes, making for a stronger, more efficient trucking industry.”

To ensure commercial drivers are prepared for B.C.’s highway network and changing weather patterns, MELT will also emphasize safe operating practices for mountainous geography and a variety of challenging driving conditions. For example, all new Class 1 drivers will learn and demonstrate the ability to properly chain up their vehicle for winter driving.

The Class 1 MELT program has been delivered by approved driver training schools in B.C. since August 2021. There are currently 46 schools across the province qualified to offer MELT.

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