Troubles facing the transportation industry was the top topic at the first of two red tape reduction roundtables held by Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard Wednesday.

CEO of the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce Tanya Oliver says industry is facing a “huge shortage” of qualified Class 1 drivers, and she can’t see that gap closing anytime soon.

“This year there were new mandatory entry-level training requirements implemented and that has posed some extra challenges for anybody wanting to get into the industry, as there is a $10,000 charge to take this training.”

Changes to the Class 1 licensing program came in March 2019, when the NDP government moved training and licensing back into the public sector fold. With the move back to government-run testing came a jolt in the price for the basic Class 1 test, which currently sits at $219.

Oliver says she is all for more qualified drivers but the hurdles they face when it comes to potential financial pitfalls to get qualified could lead to a lack of interest in the end.

“There seems to be general support for better training for drivers, but the barriers are now worse; people currently can’t receive student loans for Class 1 driving, and that a big burden on a potential employee.”

Following the roundtable, Tracy Allard said she is more than happy to have a look at any of the issues that came up. However, she believes the best solutions may come from those directly involved in the industry.

“The common thread that there are problems that are simple to fix, and industry has some great simple fixes. They’re not going to be expensive, they’re not going to be time-consuming, and they are going to effective.”

Allard says the provincial government has already received more than 3,600 submissions regarding changes that industries across Alberta would like to discuss further.

A second red tape reduction roundtable is slated for Grande Prairie on September 16th at 6:30 p.m. at Centre 2000. Registration for the event is required.