After the Humboldt Broncos bus crash of April 6, 2018, training will become mandatory for drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence in Saskatchewan next year — meaning that potential semi-truck drivers will be required to undergo a minimum of 121.5 hours of instruction.
The changes take effect March 15, 2019.
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“Saskatchewan has been working to improve standards for training curriculum and driver testing for semi drivers since mid-2017,” said MLA Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI. “Our ongoing consultations with other provinces have helped address gaps and inconsistencies when commercial drivers cross provincial borders. Stronger training requirements in Saskatchewan and across Canada will help make our province’s and our nation’s roads safer.”
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Drivers who already have their Class 1 will be grandfathered in as of March 15.
The new training will include instruction in the classroom, yard and behind the wheel. Focus areas will include basic driving training techniques, professional driving habits, vehicle inspections and airbrakes. Training schools will receive instruction on this standardized curriculum, and the province says those who deliver training will be held to higher standards.
After March 15, the Class 1 test will be conducted by SGI examiners only.
Once new drivers pass the course, they’ll be subject to a 12-month safety monitoring period. Hargrave said that during this time, drivers who are involved in at-fault collisions, receive speeding tickets or other infractions will be subject to sanctions.
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“The Saskatchewan Trucking Association applauds this move,” said the organization’s executive director Susan Ewart.
“The industry is on board with strengthened training requirements. Commercial drivers play a critical role delivering goods that keep our economy moving. Our industry also has a responsibility to make sure commercial semi drivers have the knowledge and skills to do their job ensuring the safety of everyone on the road.”
Ewart did acknowledge there are recruitment challenges in the industry, but said this is a positive step in improving the professional perception of commercial trucking and shoring up safety in the industry.
According to Hargrave, it currently costs around $3,000 to go through truck driving training. These new regulations are expected to increase the cost, meaning training will cost $6,000 to $8,500. The minister said they are looking into getting the truck course added to student loans, and certain workplaces do offer grants to help cover the training.
For those who drive trucks exclusively for farming operations, there will be different rules. These drivers will need to successfully obtain an “F” endorsement on their existing driver’s licence, a requirement that also starts on March 15.
The province says this exception is being made because those who drive trucks exclusively for farming operations typically travel less frequently, covering shorter distances through less populated areas. These drivers will be restricted to only operating within Saskatchewan’s provincial boundaries.
Hargrave added these rules do allow “F” endorsed drivers to haul on any Saskatchewan road with no distance restrictions, but said many farmers do hire commercial drivers for longer hauls.
Drivers who already have a Class 1 or complete the training will not need to get an “F” endorsement.
Opposition Leader Ryan Meili voiced concern over this exemption, saying Saskatchewan is seeing a high rate of workplace deaths this year, and semis can be dangerous pieces of equipment.
“Of course it’s a different operation than to be driving a semi from the farm a few miles away than somebody doing long-haul commercial trucking,” Meili said. “Very different.”
“So there should be different sets of training, but to leave it to completely without any training is really leaving a big hole in terms of safety here in the province.”
The province says they are continuing to consult with the agriculture sector on how the introduction of mandatory truck training impacts the industry, and if any changes need to be made down the road.