Spurred by the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Alberta Transportation says changes could be coming to the province’s driving industry, including mandatory entry-level training for commercial drivers and a change in the requirements for new commercial carriers.
Transportation Minister Brian Mason said although the province had been working to improve trucking regulations since last year, the tragic crash put trucking safety “on the front burner.”
“The horrible tragedy at Humboldt was a real impetus for today’s announcement. The matters that we’re working on today were things that we were working on at that time,” Mason said during a press conference in Calgary Tuesday.
“But clearly the terrible tragedy has focused everyone on the need to do even more to make sure that our highways, our trucking systems are as safe as possible.”
The proposed changes come days after a Calgary truck driver was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death in the devastating April 2018 collision between a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team and a semi-truck.
New commercial drivers could be required complete new training, along with enhanced road and knowledge tests in order to obtain a Class 1 or 2 driver’s licence, which are required to operate a tractor-trailer or bus.
Changes could also come for new commercial carriers starting a business in Alberta that would eliminate the current 60-day grace period they have to prove their compliance with national standards before receiving safety certification.
“This will effectively eliminate the chameleon carrier, where a new startup trucking company is put out of service for violations and then simply changes the name and reopens and continues to operate,” Mason told reporters Tuesday. “That has been a particular problem in Alberta. We’re the only province that issues these temporary safety certificates.”
“We’re the only province that issues these temporary safety certificates and we’re going to be ending that practice. Carriers will have to comply with requirements of a safety certificate before they can start operation, not after,” Mason told reporters.
Chris Nash with the Alberta Motor Transport Association said in a statement his organization supports the proposed requirements.
“We believe minimum standard training is required for both new and existing commercial drivers and carriers to operate on Alberta’s roadways,” he said. “We look forward to working with government to develop standard training in the transportation industry.”
Possible changes for private driving tests
The road test model for all driver’s licence classes in Alberta could also be updated, as the government is looking at the possibility of restoring driver examiners as government employees by 2019.
The provincial department said the current privatized process for road testing is vulnerable to many problems, including inconsistent fees, poor service and improprieties — including criminal activity in some cases — according to a 2016 independent report.
“We need to ensure that Alberta’s driver examination model is safe, transparent and secure,” said Minister of Service Alberta, Brian Malkinson in a statement.
The province says it will conduct consultations throughout July 2018 to consider any changes.
*With files Andrew Russell