Under pressure from farm groups, the Alberta government says it doesn’t want to disrupt seeding or harvesting
The Alberta government is extending the deadline for farmers to comply with new truck training rules, deciding it will accommodate demands of the upcoming growing season.
After facing pressure from producer groups, the province decided Feb. 27 that farm workers and farmers won’t need new training requirements for Class 1 or Class 2 licenses until March 1, 2020.
Initially, farmers and farm workers without such licenses would have been required to take mandatory training to meet requirements this spring, but the province said it wants to avoid seeding and harvesting issues.
“I think it’s a great first step,” said Kevin Serfas, vice-chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission.
“I have to applaud the province for listening to the concerns of Alberta farmers. It was a very short period that we had and a lot of different organizations worked hard on it.”
Team Alberta, which represents the province’s major crop commissions, recently urged the province to extend the training deadline, arguing it could hinder producers’ abilities to hire seasonal workers before seeding begins.
The group and other members of the agricultural industry will soon meet with transportation ministry officials to further consult on the rule changes.
Serfas said there are other concerns, including high costs to obtain mandatory training and the potential for more Class 3 vehicles to hit the road.
“More Class 3s would increase the carbon footprint, which is a little backwards, considering the province’s view on carbon,” he said.
“There are still issues with everything, but this now allows us time to properly express our concerns and work through some of this stuff, finding viable options.”
He said he would like Alberta’s rules to be harmonized with Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Saskatchewan is exempting farmers from requiring mandatory training. They will instead need to get an F endorsement, which allows them to operate Class 1 vehicles within provincial borders.
Manitoba is currently reviewing the possibility of changing regulations.
However, Alberta likely won’t budge on exempting farmers fully. It said it isn’t open to fully granting an exemption to the agriculture industry.
However, Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said consultations will continue with the farm groups.
“I think those conversations should continue,” he said.
“I think, at the same time, farmers and everyone want our highways to be safe.”
Gary Stanford, chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission, said the idea of exempting farmers fully would need to be discussed with other organizations.
“We want to make sure we’re making it safe, but we want to see if there are any changes in the regulations that could help farmers,” he said.
Alberta producers or workers now have from March 15 to Nov. 30 to apply for an extension application.
The province said applicants must identify themselves as farmers or farm workers to get one.
Drivers will be authorized to take pre-mandatory training knowledge and road tests for a Class 1 license once their status and application is approved.
Successful applicants must obtain their Class 1 license by Nov. 30, and will be required to complete an enhanced Class 1 knowledge and road test before March 1, 2020.