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Okanagan family of Humboldt Broncos victim advocates for truck training changes

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Okanagan family of Humboldt Broncos victim advocates for truck training changes – Oct 29, 2019

Logan Hunter’s hockey stick will forever sit perched at his family’s front door.

“We are not going to watch Logan get married. We’re not going to watch him have babies. He’s not going to carry on, he is frozen in time,” said Logan’s stepmother Ginny Hunter of Kaleden, B.C.

The 18-year-old hockey player was one of 16 people killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash of April 6, 2018 in Saskatchewan.

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Logan, who grew up in St. Albert, Alta., had recently joined the team after graduating from high school.

“He just loved the game ever since [he was six],” Hunter said. “He’s a great athlete.”

He is described as a “kind, gentle soul” who excelled at sports and loved his dog, Charlie.

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

Ginny remembers receiving word Hunter’s bus had been involved in a collision, but for 12 excruciating hours, they didn’t know if he was deceased or alive.

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“We sat by the phone and we waited for hours, all night, watching the news, waiting for a call — waiting for the call that never came,” she said on Tuesday.

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Then came the crushing news that Logan was one of the many victims.

“Complete shock,” she said. “I think our family has been in complete shock for 18 months and we are just coming out of this fog and we are just realizing now that this didn’t have to happen.”

“We want to do everything we can to stop this from happening to any other Canadian family.”

Ginny and Logan’s father, Lawrence, are breaking their silence and turning their grief into action, advocating for mandatory entry-level training for commercial truck drivers in B.C.

Current applicants for a Class 1 licence must pass a written and road test, plus air brake training. No additional training is required.

The standardized Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program implemented in other provinces requires new Class 1 drivers to complete more than 100 hours of driver training, often at their own expense.

Lawrence Hunter said drivers taking to Canadian highways with minimal training has had devastating consequences.

READ MORE: Semi driver charged with dangerous driving causing death in Humboldt Broncos bus crash

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

“It’s not if it will happen, it’s when it’s going to happen next, and if Logan would want anything, he’d want some changes made to this so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

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The couple would also like to see additional specialized training for drivers who travel on B.C.’s treacherous interior highway mountain passes during the winter months.

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“It is definitely a unique set of road systems and the dangers within the roads, the snow, the ice, the constant fog is a new set of risks that truckers are facing day in and day out for six to eight months of the year,” Lawrence said.

Four other Canadian provinces have already implemented mandatory training programs and the federal government plans to roll out a nationwide training protocol early next year.

The BC Trucking Association, meanwhile, told Global News the industry is facing a labour shortage with 6,400 job vacancies across the province.

President Dave Earle said that while mandatory training and the associated costs will create a barrier to employment, it ultimately needs to happen to keep B.C. roads safe.

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“We have been calling for mandatory minimum training for many many years,” he said.

“We believe it is absolutely critical to really start to begin to standardize and develop the basic skill sets for drivers operating commercial vehicles.”

READ MORE: Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims may soon get interim payments

Logan Hunter, 18, was killed when an inexperienced and undertrained semi truck driver drove through a stop sign and plowed into a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team on April 6, 2018. Submitted

Earle is hopeful prospective truck drivers will have access to student loan funding and other programs to ease the financial burden of training costs.

“It has been a barrier to entry to the industry but it is something we believe, fundamentally, we need to bring in and we are going to have to figure out a way to pay for it,” he said.

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The B.C. government launched consultations in July to improve training for commercial truck operators and said changes are en route.

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Manitoba announces mandatory entry-level training for commercial truck drivers – Mar 26, 2019

“While B.C. is leveraging the work done in other provinces on entry level training, it is important that B.C.’s program reflects the needs of commercial drivers and industry in the province, including B.C.’s specific geography,” said a statement from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation.

“Our timeline will allow B.C. to ensure that any program implemented in B.C. is harmonized with other jurisdictions and the forthcoming national standard, ensuring common safety standards across Canada.”

Ginny is taking her message to the B.C. Legislature in December, when a meeting with B.C.’s Transportation Minister, Claire Trevena, is scheduled. She said the time for action is now.

“I don’t want to see anybody else injured or killed on our roadways,” she said.

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