ac dare Alberta

Read it here first

the hidden secrets of AB Transportation

Part I

News Release

10.17.2019

Kalmring

Alberta

Time has come to stop the bureaucrats placing blame on politicians in regards to Safety on Alberta roads
Former Driver Examiners’ Open Letter to Albertans

Dear Albertans!

 

It is now more crucial than ever to put a final stop on bureaucrats placing blame on politicians when it comes to safety on our roads and to present a clear picture of the actual problems that lay beneath the surface of the actions of Alberta Transportation management.

We do not support the idea of throwing stones at political parties, as the majority of the executive management at AB Transportation has weathered the changes while maintaining their positions. These individuals have to be held accountable for actions that led the industry into chaos and put our lives at risk.

 

All of us were in deep shock and disbelief over the Humboldt tragedy. We immediately recalled our multiple attempts to address safety-related issues with Alberta Transportation in the past. On rare occasions, we were given a chance to discuss our concerns with the ministry’s officials but the outcome was always far from productive. 

 

Instead of listening to professionals with front row experience in road safety, the officials, some without a background in driver testing or training, continued to regulate the process their way.

 

To cover their negligence, incompetence, and lack of knowledge in many areas of the industry, including OH&S, they agreed to implement dramatic changes that were dismissive of logic and planning and ended up creating more barriers on the road to safety.

 

Those changes stalled the testing industry in 2019, those changes greatly affected the general public in many areas, including employment, but most importantly – those changes did very little in terms of improving safety standards of the industry. The mindset of those in charge is still, unfortunately, not in tune with the actual demands of actions crucial to achieving improvements long due.

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WEXIT HAT by SMART FOSSILS

After realizing that the industry neither was equipped nor ready to begin implementing new standards, the recently elected Government pointed fingers at its predecessors. Though it is true that the platform-related actions by previous Government affected our rights as private business contractors and resulted in a legal dispute, it will be unfair to hang the responsibility for the negative outcome entirely on the shoulders of politicians.

 

With the above, the recent announcement by the Alberta Government to exempt some drivers from the mandatory retesting and expensive enhanced training program should not be the biggest concern for the public. The biggest concern should be that there is still no alternative working plan. 

Here are just a few facts that serve as proof that the core of the problem lays not within politics but the approach to safety maintained by Alberta Transportation for many years.

 

Alberta Transportation has always been notoriously stingy when it came to providing clear information on policies and traffic laws. From the array of confusing extracts from the Traffic Safety Act presented in the Learner's Guide to the province-wide bewilderment with the school and playground zones, the Ministry never failed to maintain certain levels of mystery in all of its actions.

 

Traditionally, Alberta Transportation never found it important to clarify to the general public that driver instructor and driver examiner are completely separate roles and should never be confused. It becomes crucial to know this difference when attempting to gauge the effectiveness of changes happening in the industry.

 

Out of the whole chain holding the industry together, we are the smallest link in terms of our ability to influence someone's safety consciousness. Between the number of hours spent with the instructor and the number of hours spent receiving employer-specific training, the time spent on the road test is just enough for the driver to demonstrate their best behavior and for us to determine if the person behind the wheel is capable of safely operating a vehicle.

We witnessed some of our best road test clients shamelessly rolling through the stop sign after passing their road test. Should we be punished for the choice of an individual to disrespect the laws of the road? Shouldn't that be the responsibility of Alberta Transportation to instill safety into the minds of drivers for the long term?

 

AB Transportation, and in particular, the Driver Programs Administration branch, responsible for overseeing driver education and testing failed to provide adequate oversight and ongoing training for many years. For instance, some examiners had not been monitored for more than 5 years, as opposed to every 2 years. Some of us had to help new Driver Program Administrators to effectively score test results, conduct proper truck pre-trip inspections and advise how to interpret traffic laws.  

 

After the group of us launched legal action in March of 2019, drawing public and media's attention, we were presented in the worst light possible. Portrayed as money-hungry spoiled brats, we were not given a fair chance to reveal hidden dirty little secrets of the industry. 

 

One of the secrets completely clears us from the blame for the high costs of the road test. AB Transportation failed to inform the public that the examiner’s fee was at times less than 50% of the total cost. The remaining portion was taken by the Registry Agents for printing a road test permit and by the online scheduling system that charged convenience fees. We attempted multiple times to address the ABT officials with our concerns over the cost issues, but nothing was ever done.

Established to continuously review and improve all aspects of driver testing a Road Testing Committee (RTC) involving Registry Agents, driver examiners, insurance agencies and of course, the Driver Program Administrators, was quietly shut down in 2016. According to the explanation by one of the higher ranking Ministry officials, it was due to the lack of funds to pay for the video link between Edmonton and Calgary. 

This lack of funds sure was not a big issue when over 80 new vehicles, 150+ iPhones and tablets were purchased to accommodate the same private examiners turned to become Government employees who were so loudly defamed by the former minister Brian Mason in his speech in the summer of 2018.

 

On November 28, 2018, Pete Llewellyn as Executive Director of the Certified Driver Examiners’ Association met with the former Minister Brian Mason and warned AB Transportation that without proper consultations with stakeholders such changes were bound to fail and would most likely create further problems. 

 

But like many times before, the warnings were widely ignored. Now it is time for all of us to review the situation and demand solutions to the problems to prevent future disasters and loss of lives.

Let’s scratch the surface of the ongoing problems just a little because that is all that’s needed to send any safety-conscious mind to wonder if it is even safe to get out on the road anymore.

 

Three basic factors of safety in any field follow the same pattern: identify the problem, form a solution and take action to eliminate or to mitigate the repeat occurrences. The biggest challenge that we all face now is the very lack of expertise required to recognize the existence of the problem at the earliest stage possible.

 

There are many safety-conscious and dedicated commercial drivers on our roads. It would be wrong to paint the whole commercial driving force as unsafe or non-compliant. Many commercial companies take safety very seriously and often exceed the standards in their hiring process compared to those set by the Government to obtain the operator’s license. However, the current approach to safety by Alberta Transportation does not provide guarantees that the standard is followed at every level of the industry.

 

When the changes to the current commercial training were introduced we questioned why drivers licensed under class 3 commercial licenses were exempt from the new regulations. Those are the drivers who earn their living by driving large waste trucks, grain trucks, sweepers, etc. The vehicles they operate are just as large and have just as many blind spots as buses and semi-trailer units.

Further – for many years the farm vehicles have been exempt from the air brake test for those wishing to obtain the class 3 commercial licenses. There was no logic in exempting drivers of those vehicles. They were not restricted to travel on private farm property and shared the public roads with all of us. 

 

For over a decade examiners had to record on the clients' test results if the vehicle used for a commercial class of test had standard or automatic transmission. Those records never made it into the system and were not in any way reflected on the driver’s license. This allowed many to take their road tests in an automatic transmission truck, leaving us all to hope that the hiring company had the in-house evaluation set up before allowing new drivers to operate different types of transmission. 

 

AB Transportation ignored our requests to review the lengths and procedures of tests for different classes of the Alberta license. The implementation of the minor changes to the examiners' checklist took months if not years and still left the client in the dark over the actual definitions of errors.

On any occasion, we reported unsafe working conditions which did not only affect some of us, but also the safety of the Registry Agent’s staff and the general public. In violation of the provincial and federal OH&S laws, the bureaucrats at AB Transportation failed to properly investigate the incidents reported and to follow up with the solutions to eliminate and mitigate such incidents in the future.

 

As mentioned before, this was just a slight scratch at the surface of the overall negligence, incompetence, and disobedience of the OH&S law by the bureaucrats of AB Transportation. The magnitude of the remaining facts we reserve until you, Albertans, will stand by our side demanding the long due changes to the ways they choose to operate thereby putting the safety of all of us at extreme risk.

 

We can not let another tragedy happen.

 

Due to various reasons, the undersigned chose not to pursue employment with the Government of Alberta.

 

Dedicated for life to the safety on Alberta roads,

 

Holly Kalmring 

(Former driver examiner; member of the Executive Board of Directors, Certified Driver Examiners Association; member of the Road Testing Committee)

Steven Lee

(Former driver examiner; member of the Executive Board of Directors, Certified Driver Examiners Association; member of the Road Testing Committee)

Darrell Steen

(Former driver examiner; member of the Executive Board of Directors, Certified Driver Examiners Association)

Steven Calhoun

(Former driver examiner; Commercial Trucking Instructor)

Alfred Merkli

(Former driver examiner; OH&S specialist)

Alex Dhaliwal

(Former driver examiner)

Gamdur Braar

(Former driver examiner)

Lorraine Richards

(Former driver examiner)

Paul Grewal

(Former driver examiner)

Vipin Kumar

(Former driver examiner)