Children board school buses in Calgary.
Alberta is once again extending the deadline for farmers to complete a new mandatory commercial driver training program.The UCP government announced Friday farmers and farm workers now have until March 1, 2021 to meet the new training and testing requirements for a Class 1 driver’s license. The government is also offering an extension — until July 31, 2020 — for new school bus drivers seeking to meet the requirements for a Class 2 driver’s license.The standardized, driver training program (dubbed MELT, or Mandatory Entry-Level Training) was created by the former NDP government in response to the horrific Humboldt Broncos bus crash last year. It was to be mandatory for all new Class 1 and 2 commercial drivers as of March 1, 2019.However, agriculture groups complained the training requirements would have unintended consequences for farmers who depend on seasonal labour. They warned a provincial shortage of skilled farm labour could be exacerbated by the new training rules, especially if the training programs are full or wait-listed.In response to those concerns, the NDP government offered an initial extension to March 1, 2020, for farm workers. The UCP is now extending the deadline by another 12 months as well as offering an extension for school bus drivers.“The school bus driver and farming industries are highly flexible, seasonal industries that indicated they need more time to adjust to the MELT requirements,” said Transportation Minister Ric McIver in a release. “This extension ensures these key industries can continue their work without disruption, particularly during the busy back-to-school and harvest seasons.”Eligible farmers and farm workers can apply to Alberta Transportation for the MELT deadline extension until Nov. 30, 2020, while eligible school bus drivers can apply until July 31, 2020.Farmers and farm workers must pass the Class 1 enhanced knowledge and road tests that are based on the MELT curriculum before March 1, 2021, to keep their commercial licence.School bus drivers must pass the Class 2 MELT enhanced tests by July 31, 2020. School bus drivers who do not have an S Endorsement on their driver’s licence will have until July 31, 2020 to complete the School Bus Driver Improvement Program.email@example.comOn Twitter: @AmandaMsteph