The job prospects for a Cranbrook woman are suddenly in limbo, due to a short bout of illness that coincided with the implementation of a new ICBC program.
Rosemary Stonehouse had spent the past year training to get her her Class 1 license, and got her Class 1 learners license in August. She had a road test scheduled in October to get her Commercial Driving License (CDL). However, she fell sick on the day and had to cancel her test. When she was recovered, she was informed ICBC wouldn’t allow her to reschedule her road test, because ICBC had brought in a new training program, which she would have to pay to go through before taking the road test.
In March of 2021, with the assistance of Work BC and grants from Columbia Basin Trust, Stonehouse attended the Air Brakes and Class 1 driving training through Rocky Mountain Pro Drivers in Cranbrook.
“I have since completed and passed my Air Brakes course and hold a valid Air Brakes Endorsement on my current BC driver’s license,” she said. “However, although my Class 1 learners license does not expire until 2022, I have learned that ICBC will not permit me to take my road exam unless I spend an additional $16,000 on their Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) program that came into effect on October 18, 2021.
“I have also completed the majority of my driving lessons with Pro Drivers, but cannot go any further without another road test scheduled.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure informed the Townsman that Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) became a pre-licensing requirement on Oct. 18, 2021, to ensure that new Class 1 drivers had consistent training prior to taking their road test, with a goal of increasing driver skill and road safety.
“Following the tragedy of the Humboldt crash, there is a continued effort to raise the standards of commercial driver training across the country,” the Ministry spokesperson said in an email.
“MELT is now a prerequisite for taking a Class 1 road test in B.C. It is designed to align with the new national Class 1 entry level training standard introduced as part of the National Safety Code in February 2020, and with the mandatory Class 1 entry-level standards already in place in other Canadian jurisdictions (Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba).”
Stonehouse had been scheduled for an ICBC road test on the afternoon of October 14, four days before ICBC’s MELT program was to come into effect. However, on that day she wasn’t feeling well.
“Although I had been feeling sick for a few days beforehand I was still trying to complete my training so I would be prepared for this test,” she said.
“Around noon that day I met with a driving instructor to prepare me for the road test and not even halfway through I cancelled because I was far too sick to complete.”
Stonehouse had a doctor’s note and the results from her Covid-19 test showing she followed medical protocols by cancelling and isolating and testing.
“But ICBC will not allow me to reschedule because it’s is past their October 18, 2021, deadline.”
Stonehouse said that Rocky Mountain Pro Drivers agrees that she should have an opportunity to take the re-scheduled road test while her Class 1 learners license is valid. Otherwise, the additional cost to take the MELT program, going through the school, is $16,000.
In the meantime, she holds a valid learners license, good until 2022. But that’s now moot, she says.
Stonehouse’s job prospects had been looking good. She had interviewed with Glen Transport for a possible position with the company once she’d acquired her Class 1.
“Being a 50 —year-old woman, changing careers from office work to being a transport driver is intimidating already without the added pressure of ICBC’s mandated new program that pretty much ignores my time, money, and more importantly the training,” Stonehouse said. “I need a job and I know there is a demand for transport truck drivers. I know that I am more than capable and I know that, given an opportunity, I will pass my road test. I paid ICBC’s fees to obtain my CD learners licence and they gave me a expiry date in 2022 and yet will not honour it.”
The Ministry said the new program requirement was announced by the provincial government on March 31, 2021, well in advance of the implementation date, for drivers enrolled in a training program or otherwise in the process of obtaining a Class 1. This was a reasonable amount of time to book and complete a Class 1 road test before the changes took effect.
As part of MELT, the Province introduced transition rules to grandparent drivers who were in the process of obtaining their Class 1 when MELT was announced.
Drivers that held a valid Class 1 Learners when MELT was announced and attempted a road test between March 31 and Oct. 18, are eligible to attempt up to two more road tests by Jan. 18, 2022.
Any driver who obtained their Class 1 learner’s licence after March 31, 2021 and was unable to complete their road test prior to Oct. 18, is required to complete their MELT certification.
The MELT program has no impact on the validity of the Class 1 learner’s licence.
Stonehouse was in touch with Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka, who brought up her situation in the BC Legislature on October 25, 2021.
“Access to government services needs more attention,” Shypitka said in the House. “The backlog of ICBC road tests is unacceptable and it is costing British Columbians time, frustration and in some cases their livelihoods.”