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Alberta government truck driver training review angers Humboldt crash families

WATCH ABOVE: The government of Alberta is considering relaxing training for truck and bus drivers which could repeal the new safety regulations put in place following the Humboldt Broncos crash. As Emily Olsen reports, families of those victims are not taking the news lightly.

An Alberta government review into new truck driver training rules has sparked anger among families impacted by last year’s Humboldt hockey team bus tragedy.

“Now the parents are feeling like we need to [get] back into the limelight and push, and we’re going to push,” said Toby Boulet from a hockey arena in Lethbridge that now bears the name of his son, Logan.

Logan Boulet was one of 16 people killed when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team collided with a semi truck in April, 2018. Thirteen others were injured.

The crash, which was caused by an inexperienced and under-trained semi-truck driver, prompted several provinces to introduce mandatory entry-level training (MELT) programs. MELT requires new class one drivers to complete more than 100 hours of driver training, often at the driver’s expense.

READ MORE: Mandatory entry-level training for truck drivers now in effect in Manitoba (Sept. 2, 2019)

“Some members of the agricultural community have expressed that this will be a hardship, some members of the trucking industry have expressed that the training for MELT is expensive,” said Ric McIver, Alberta’s transportation minister.

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In response to industry concerns, the Alberta government has agreed to review the MELT requirements.

“No decisions have been made,” McIver said. “We’re going out on a consultation [tour] which hasn’t even started yet.”
Could Alberta relax trucking rules after Humboldt crash?
Could Alberta relax trucking rules after Humboldt crash?

Chris Joseph, whose son, Jaxon, was killed in the Humboldt tragedy, says he is concerned the review could lead to relaxed driver training requirements for some drivers.

“These people are driving the same roads that we are every day. They’re driving basically a killing machine if it’s not operated properly.”

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“If you would like to find a way as a government to ease the financial burden of taking this course, I personally don’t have a problem with that. If you are looking at ways to ease the training? I have a big problem with that,” Joseph said.

READ MORE: Humboldt Broncos families push petition that seeks country-wide trucking laws (May 7, 2019)

Alberta grain farmer Stephen Vandervalk points out that transportation needs on farms are often very different and truck drivers are often only required to travel short distances.

“You’re not really driving very far away from your farm,” Vandervalk said from his home near Fort MacLeod, Alta.

“We’re not saying that farmers don’t need to take training, but to go to a six-week or eight-week course and spend $10,000 to do it, it’s very difficult.”

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

Alberta’s MELT program requirement came into effect in March, but farmers, farm workers and school bus drivers were given an exemption until Nov. 20, 2019.

A government spokesperson says that because nationalizing the driver’s exam system resulted in lengthy wait times, that deadline was extended to Nov. 30, 2020 for farmers and farm workers, and until July 31, 2020 for school bus drivers.