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New mandatory semi truck driver training starts Friday in Saskatchewan

WATCH: Saskatchewan is set to become the third province with mandatory truck training. David Baxter reports.

Drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence in Saskatchewan will have to undergo new mandatory training starting Friday, March 15.

Changes were announced in December 2018 after commercial trucking was thrown in the spotlight following the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Sixteen people were killed and 13 injured when the team’s bus slammed into a semi on April 6, 2018, at an intersection in eastern Saskatchewan.

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

The minister responsible for SGI, Joe Hargrave, said stakeholders were involved in coming up with the training curriculum, and is the culmination of work started by SGI in 2017 to improve standards.

“These changes will improve safety on our province’s roads by ensuring Class 1 drivers receive more rigorous standardized training, based on strengthened curriculum requirements,” Hargrave said Thursday in a statement.

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Drivers will now have to undergo 121.5 hours of in-classroom, in-yard, and behind the wheel training, with a focus on basic driving techniques, professional driving habits, vehicle inspections, and air brakes.

Class 1 testing will be carried out by SGI examiners only. Certain accredited training schools were previously allowed to test students.

READ MORE: Father who lost son in Humboldt Broncos crash wants graduated truck training licensing

Training schools have received instruction on the new standardized curriculum, and the province said those who deliver training will be held to higher standards.

New drivers who pass will be subject to a 12-month safety monitoring period once they received their Class 1 licence.

During this time, drivers who are involved in at-fault collisions, receive speeding tickets or other infractions will be subject to sanctions.

Drivers who already have their Class 1 will be grandfathered in as of March 15.

READ MORE: Sask. farmers exempt from mandatory semi driver training, but that could change

There are different rules for drivers who drive semis exclusively for farm operations.

They will need to pass the same tests to obtain an “F” endorsement on their existing driver’s licence, a requirement that also starts on March 15.

Those drivers will only be allowed to operate within Saskatchewan’s borders, and are subject to the same 12-month safety monitoring program.

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National mandatory training push

Saskatchewan is the third province to introduce mandatory semi-truck driver training. Ontario was first, followed by Alberta.

Trucks aren’t confined to provincial borders, which is why there is a push for a national mandatory entry-level training.

An Alberta woman, Pattie Fair, began circulating paper petitions calling on mandatory training after her husband was killed in a collision with a semi-driver two years ago.

Ideas put forward by Fair include graduated licensing system to give learner drivers more training driving these heavy complex vehicles, but also different road conditions. Fair said driving in Saskatchewan is much different than winter roads through the B.C. mountains.

“How can we expect drivers to navigate mountain passes when they may not have done it in a car?” Fair asked.

Fair’s petition has moved online, and is registered with the House of Commons. The Humboldt Broncos host a link to the petition on their website.

“I know myself when I was an inexperienced driver things happened, nothing serious but maybe could have been serious,” Lyle Brons said. Lyle is the father of Broncos athletic therapist Dayna Brons who lost her life in the April 6, 2018, crash.

Humboldt Broncos president Kevin Garinger, centre, and team athletic therapist Dayna Brons’s mom Carol Brons as dad Lyle take part in a ceremonial puck drop.
Humboldt Broncos president Kevin Garinger, centre, and team athletic therapist Dayna Brons’s mom Carol Brons as dad Lyle take part in a ceremonial puck drop. Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

“I just thought this is hard and I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. I’d go home and the next day I’d show up for work again and as a person got more experience, the easier it got.”

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In addition to national training, Fair’s petition calls on truck driving to be recognized as a skilled trade. She said this could help potential drivers access student loans or grants to secure training.

“We need to give the industry the respect it deserves so we can have safer roads,” Fair said.

This standardized training increases the cost. In Saskatchewan, courses are expected to cost $9,000 to $10,000. This contributed to a rush of people trying to get their 1A license before March 15.

According to SGI, 487 people took their 1A road test between Jan. 1 and March 13, 2018. In the same time period this year, 1,895 people booked the test.

Dayna’s mom Carol was encouraged these drivers would also be subject to the 12-month safety monitoring program, but has concerns.

“I had no idea that number of people would be rushing to get their license. It’s a little astounding actually, just within Saskatchewan,” Carol said.

Hargrave said SGI anticipated this rush of road tests.

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