Another 500 Albertans can receive partial government funding to obtain a Class 1 commercial truck driver’s licence this year.
The provincial government has earmarked $5 million to cover up to 90 percent of mandatory entry-level training costs for eligible unemployed Alberta residents.
The trucking industry has indicated a shortage of Class 1 truck drivers for years but the cost of training at $6,000 to $10,000 is a barrier for many.
The funding program, called Driving Back to Work, was also implemented last year when it partially paid training fees for 300 people, according to a government news release. That cost $3 million.
Jude Groves, board chair of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, said that as an essential service, commercial trucking is important to the delivery of goods, and the demand for drivers continues to rise. The industry has warned of a potential shortage of as many as 3,600 commercial drivers by 2023 based on current trends.
“Reducing barriers to entry for new commercial drivers, and helping transition experienced workers into our industry, helps grow Alberta’s economy. Retraining commitments like this one reassure Albertans, and investors, that our province is committed to building a resilient supply chain and creating the jobs we need to keep goods moving to market safely and efficiently,” he said in the release.
Potential new Class 1 drivers must take mandatory entry level training, dubbed MELT, which is a requirement instituted in March 2019 in Alberta. It includes a standard curriculum with in-class, in-yard and in-vehicle training. The course takes 113 hours to complete, not including the air-brake program that requires another 8.5 hours.
If the individual already has a Class 3 licence with at least two years of experience, upgrading to a Class 1 will require a 40-hour course rather than the full 113-hour course.
The province said the 2021 grant will provide an estimated $8,900 for the Class 1 training. Eligible Albertans must be at least 18 years old, already hold an Alberta driver’s licence, and must qualify for employment insurance. They must also plan to seek full-time employment as a commercial trucker and have sufficient English language skills to succeed in training and testing.