The Manitoba government plans to hold meetings next month to find out what those in the industry think about the idea of requiring new truck drivers to receive training.
While there is no mandatory training in Manitoba, there is an industry-accepted standard for registered schools which is 240 hours, or six weeks of training.
“What the trucking industry wants is our currently accepted training standard 240 hours, (or) six weeks, to be made mandatory for people prior to them taking their class one license in Manitoba,” Manitoba Trucking Association Executive Director Terry Shaw said.
Alberta and Saskatchewan will soon have mandatory training of 120 hours, or three weeks. Global News has learned the Manitoba government is looking at doing the same.
It’s a move the industry said is headed in the wrong direction.
“Alberta and Saskatchewan, to our knowledge, went from 0 to 120 hours, which for them is a pretty major step,” Shaw said. “In Manitoba we have a 240 hour standard. So for us to go to a 120 hour standard is not a major step. It’s a backward step quite frankly.”
Driver programs in Manitoba already provide training approved by Manitoba Public Insurance, but new drivers are not required to take it because it is not mandatory.
“Our concern in Manitoba is that we don’t want to harmonize to the lowest standard. We want to harmonize to our current understood standard.”
Jim Campbell runs one of five registered driver training companies in Manitoba and said there is a need to keep the current standard to maintain safety.
“(The government) needs to increase their standards a little bit more,” Campbell said.
He said moving to just three weeks of training is a cause for concern.
“Safety is a big concern,” he said. “I think we (would be) leaving a lot of components out that we have been delivering for years and it’s essential for safety on the road.”
“I’ve been on the road, did a lot of miles out on the highway around North America, and we definitely need better drivers out there,” Campbell said. “The quality of drivers in the past few years have been decreasing. We need to send better, safer drivers out on the highway.”
The conversation around mandated training reignited in April after the fatal Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan.
WATCH: Saskatchewan introduces mandatory semi driver training after Humboldt Broncos tragedy
“The trucking industry is safe but we are not incident free,” Shaw said. “We’ve all seen what happens when we’re involved in accidents. They are massive and they are traumatic.”
It’s one of the biggest reasons the industry in Manitoba said it believes the province should be looking to lead the pack when it comes to required training.
“The opportunity is to ensure the operators of trucks on roads have a minimum knowledge set and minimum skill set that accompanies that class one license,” Shaw said. “That’s not what we find ourselves with today.”
Another concern is that the Manitoba government might not be moving quickly enough.
Ontario is the only province that currently has the mandate in place. With two others set to be in place within months, Manitoba truckers fear it will keep a dangerous loophole open.
“We’re seeing it now. Ontario went with mandatory training about 18 months ago,” Shaw said. “What we’ve seen, unfortunately – it’s human nature, the path of least resistance – people are leaving Ontario, coming to Manitoba, trying to secure a license here because its easier.”
Shaw said he is concerned Manitoba will now see an influx of possibly unqualified drivers from Alberta and Saskatchewan who will look to do the same to avoid testing in those provinces.
The province is set to hold consultations in Winnipeg and Brandon in January.