Ever since the province announced Saskatchewan was moving toward mandatory, standardized semi-truck training, Skyways Truck Driver Training School owner Rana Hameud has been incredibly busy.
“A lot of students are coming. They want to get it done before the 15th of March, because after that it will be expensive. At the same time, it has 121 hours also, that’s not easy to do that,” Hameud said.
Once the new training rules take effect, all new drivers will need at least 121.5 hours of instruction. The estimated cost of the course will between $9,000 and $10,000.
Currently, most truck training schools in Saskatchewan offer three-course lengths depending on prior experience, ranging from one to three weeks. Posted costs range from $2,400 to $7,400, depending on course length.
The new rules were announced on Dec. 3, 2018. According to SGI, 1,122 people have taken their Class One tests between Dec. 4, 2018 and Feb. 20. That same time period last year saw 509 people take the test.
SGI’s vice president of traffic safety, driver and support services Kwei Quaye said this isn’t a surprise. He said it is common to see a rush of tests before new regulations take effect.
For now, Quaye said that the Crown corporation is working to accommodate all road tests booked before March 15.
“We’re going to allow them a maximum of two tests or a cut-off of April 30, whichever comes first, to attempt to take the road test,” Quaye said.
If potential drivers fail both tests, or miss the April 30 cut-off date, they will have to take the standardized course.
Drivers that receive their 1A license before the deadline will still be subject to one new rule; the 12-month safety monitoring period. This applies to all licenses earned after Dec. 3, 2018, and means sanctions can be placed on drivers for offences like speeding or at-fault collisions.
“The goal of the program is to ensure we carefully monitor the driving record of these new drivers and we take any remedial measures that might be needed to make them operate safely,” Quay said.
The Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) echoed SGI’s lack of surprise in people rushing to get their 1A license. However, STA policy and communications director Nicole Sinclair said potential drivers should weigh their options.
“If you’re getting your license now and you’re running through a cheap one-week course, it’s less likely you’re going to get hired at a reputable company if they know a batch of people are coming up that have done the mandatory training at that standard,” Sinclair said.
“Those people are becoming more employable.”
Hameud said that it is good the new training standards are coming into effect. He noted that the baby boomers will be retiring soon, and professional drivers will be needed to take their places.
Overall, Hameud thinks the new regulations are a good thing, but said many of his students are new immigrants and are worried about time constraints.
“The 121 hours is not an easy job for the people, especially the immigrants because they have their families and they are doing odd jobs. It’s really hard for them to get this done after the 15th of March,” Hameud said.
Other concerns raised by driver trainers that wished to remain anonymous include the exemption for farm trucks as long as the driver has an “F” endorsement on their license. They also wanted to see mandatory training brought in for Class 3A license. This class covers other heavy vehicles like dump trucks and certain buses.