Kim Wylie has been a truck driver for 38 years and lives in Humboldt, Sask. Last year, when the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team collided with a semi truck, killing 16 people on board, Wylie was devastated.
“We’re a small town of 6,000 people. Our neighbours down the street lost their son. My daughter graduated with three of those boys in her class,” Wylie said.
The tragedy brought attention to a serious problem within the trucking industry. Across most of the country, drivers could get behind the wheel of powerful semi trucks with little to no training; all that was required was that they passed a class driver’s exam.
WATCH: Petition for more commercial trucking rules after Humboldt bus tragedy
A year ago, Ontario was the only province that had a mandatory entry-level truck driver training (MELT) program in place. Today, those programs have been rolled out in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while Manitoba’s MELT program comes into effect on Sept. 1 and MELT programs will be required nationwide by the beginning of next year.
The families of some those killed or injured in last April’s crash are now also advocating for change. Chris Joseph lost his son, Jaxon. Joseph says the work done so far is only a start.
“Some of the changes have been good. They’re, in our eyes, a baby step; we still think there’s a lot more to do,” he said.
Joseph has helped push a petition to the House of Commons with suggestions for Canada-wide mandatory graduated entry-level training legislation for Class 1 drivers. The petition — started by Pattie Fair, whose husband died in a collision involving a semi truck — calls for a graduated licensing system that would take into account both the size and complexity of vehicles as well as weather and road conditions.
Scott Thomas, the father of Evan Thomas, another Humboldt Bronco killed in the bus crash, has been working to support that petition as well.
“I’ve said consistently that those guys should be treated like airplane pilots. You can wipe 20 to 30 people off the face of the earth in a plane crash, and (Jaskirat Singh) Sidhu almost wiped 30 people off the face of the earth here.”
WATCH: Photographing the Humboldt Broncos before and after the tragedy
Semi driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in prison last month for his involvement in the crash. Court heard during his sentencing hearing that Sidhu was an inexperienced driver who had been on the road for only three weeks. A logbook review also found Sidhu had violated 51 federal regulations and 19 Saskatchewan regulations between March 26 and April 6, 2018.
“One of the main lessons of Humboldt was the issue of compliance with regards to hours of service,” said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “There were multiple violations. Why? Paper logbooks.”
WATCH: Remembering the tragic Humboldt bus crash, one year later
According to Transport Canada, the government is currently finalizing a technical standard for electronic logging devices. Laskowski says he’s hopeful legislation will be brought in to make electronic logging mandatory later this spring.
“Hopefully, by May or June, we see this introduced and we see an 18-month implementation period. It’s a critical piece of legislation that will improve truck safety, and we want to see it come in as quickly as possible,” Laskowski said.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance is also working with Transport Canada to ensure that trucking company owners are complying with safety standards. Last month, Sukhmander Singh, the owner of former Calgary-based business Adesh Deol Trucking, was handed a $5,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to five separate safety-related charges, which included failing to keep a driver’s log, neglecting to make sure that his drivers followed safety regulations and keeping more than a single daily logbook.
Singh also pleaded guilty to not following — or not keeping — a written safety program.
“The Canadian Trucking Alliance believes it’s too easy to get into the trucking business. We need to make sure that 100 per cent of the people that come into our industry from an ownership perspective understand the need and commitment to public safety,” Laskowski said.
WATCH: Calls for tougher trucking rules after Humboldt crash