February 8, 2019 2:57 pm
Updated: February 9, 2019 8:07 pm

Alberta farm groups ask province to push date for new driver training rules

Oct. 14, 2018: Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, joins Global News Morning to talk about the new training and operational requirements for Class 1 and 2 drivers and how they will impact road safety.

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A coalition representing Alberta’s agriculture producers wants the province to change its launch date on new training rules for truck drivers.

The province says the date will stay in place.

Starting March 1, drivers of semi-trucks and commercial buses will need to take more extensive training, including work in the classroom and on the road, to qualify for a licence.

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WATCH: Significant changes to be implemented on truck drivers in Alberta

Team Alberta — representing pulse growers, wheat and barley producers and others — says it’s worried the change will affect their operations.

The group says a lot of seasonal work relies on truck drivers and it’s worried resources will not be in place to get them tested in time.

“We’re asking for any kind of extension, even into April/May, so we can get things looked at and have the government talk to us and to farmers about what exactly this means and how relevant and appropriate some of these testing requirements and training requirements are,” Ward Toma, the general manager of Alberta Canola Producers told Global News.

“This deadline kind of caught everybody unawares that it actually applied to more than just commercial professional truck drivers.”

Toma said an extension would also give farmers more time to train their drivers according to the new regulations.

“These people are not professional drivers; they’re workers on farms that need to drive a truck that’s rated Class 1 and they need to be trained up as appropriately as possible for the situations they are in,” Toma said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan introduces mandatory semi truck driver training after Humboldt Broncos tragedy

The changes were introduced last summer in response to a horrific crash in Saskatchewan involving an Alberta-registered truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.

An inexperienced truck driver blew through a stop sign and into the path of the bus. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured.

READ MORE: Alberta proposes changes to truck driving requirements after Humboldt bus crash

The coalition says it supports improved road safety, but Don Shepert of the Alberta Pulse Growers says there is already a shortage of skilled farm workers and the new training rules will make that problem worse.

The Transportation Department, in a statement, says the impact on farm operations will not be onerous.

WATCH: A new federally-regulated training could cost truckers thousands

The department says the changes don’t apply to those who already have licences and only applies to drivers who have established residency in Alberta. It also says only about one in five of the 130,000 farm vehicles registered in Alberta will require a commercial licence.

“The government of Alberta is implementing mandatory entry level training to enhance safety for everyone travelling on Alberta’s roads,” reads the statement.

“Feedback from all stakeholders indicated that there should be no exemptions for any particular industry group.”

— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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