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In a recent column, I spoke about the Taylor Bridge and how infrastructure in our province serves as the lifeline that keeps our economy moving forward. This week, I want to take a moment to talk about another key contributor  to our economy — our commercial truck drivers.

Truck drivers are crucial to our regional economy in the resource sector as well as in trade and commerce. Although British Columbians may sometimes forget it, we depend on tens of thousands of Class 1 and 3 drivers hauling freight all hours of the day to bring us the goods we need for the services we depend on. It also keeps out oil and gas, forestry, mining and agricultural sector going. While we don’t bang pots and pans for our commercial drivers, they are as much an essential service as our healthcare professionals, emergency responders, and all frontline workers.

But B.C. and all of Canada is facing a shortage of commercial drivers. A report by Trucking HR Canada states that Canada is expected to be short 25,000 truck drivers as early as 2023. The truck driver shortage is an issue that is being felt in every industry and in many aspects of our lives. Importantly, I believe John Horgan and his NDP government could be doing more to remove the barriers that are keeping truck drivers out of the labour force.

Here in B.C., we are experiencing a backlog of Class 1 road tests through ICBC as truck drivers are struggling to book timely appointments. I have received several emails from constituents here in the Peace River region who are prospective commercial drivers that are finding it too difficult and costly to acquire their Class 1 commercial licences.

The government’s new Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) for Class 1 drivers came into effect October 18, and while I strongly support efforts to improve safety standards for our drivers, the fact remains that this training is expected to cost around $15,000 per driver. John Horgan must review our ICBC testing institutions and introduce more provincial incentives to help prospective drivers bear the costs and get on the road. To make matters worse, the minister promised he would assist with this backlog and then broke his word. This has been hard on driving schools still trying to recover from COVID to now bear an incredible cost to administer the MELT as well as on many companies that have traditionally covered the training costs. Our office will continue to advocate on this issue.

As someone who worked as a commercial truck driver myself, I can tell you that the experience is well-paying and extremely rewarding, and you leave the workday knowing you carried out a crucial service that supports our communities and keeps our economy moving forward. I hope in the next few years, we will see more British Columbians take up this exciting career in a system that can get them on the road in a timely and cost-effective manner.

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