A new advocacy group with ties to the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is calling for mandatory national standards when it comes to semi-truck driver training.
Safer Roads Canada says its goal is to improve Canada’s commercial licensing system and make our roads a safer place for everyone to travel.
The non-profit group says its founding members have all lost family members in crashes involving semi-trucks.
“We believe everyone deserves to come home safe, and that means ensuring drivers are well trained,” said Safer Roads Canada executive director Pattie Fair of Alix, Alta.
A press release issued by Safer Roads Canada said Fair’s husband, Steve Babij, was killed in a crash involving a semi-truck driven by an inexperienced driver who lost control in Rogers Pass, B.C., and hit his truck head on.
Citing Transport Canada statistics, the group says 400 fatal crashes a year in Canada involve heavy vehicles like semi-trucks.
In April 2018, at a highway intersection in Saskatchewan, 16 people died when a truck driver ran a stop sign and crashed into the Humboldt Broncos’ bus. The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks.
“Our goal is to spare others the hardship of losing someone they love to a senseless crash that could have been prevented,” said Carol Brons of Lake Lenore, Sask., a director of Safer Roads Canada.
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Carol and Lyle Brons’ daughter, Dayna Brons, was the athletic therapist for the Humboldt Broncos, and died from injuries sustained in the 2018 crash.
“We commend Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario for already implementing mandatory entry-level training (MELT) programs, but more needs to be done,” said Ginny Hunter of Kaleden, B.C., chairperson of Safer Roads Canada.
Hunter’s son, Logan, died in the Humboldt Broncos’ bus tragedy.
“A driver trainee in any other province or territory can still obtain a Class 1 licence and be insured without completing a mandatory training program, and may operate extra-provincially across the country with trucks pulling multiple trailers, in complex weather and road conditions, all under the sole jurisdiction of Transport Canada,” she said.
Fair and Hunter say they expressed their concerns about B.C.’s commercial licensing system in December to the province’s attorney general, David Eby, and minister of transportation, Claire Trevena.
They claim B.C. is lagging behind Ontario and other Western provinces in introducing MELT legislation.
They note that British Columbia has some of the most treacherous roads in Canada for heavy vehicles, such as Rogers Pass and the Coquihalla Highway, which demand a high level of driving skill and training, particularly in adverse weather conditions.
The group says its launch comes following a federal announcement in February regarding a national standard for entry-level training of Class 1 commercial truck drivers.
However, a media spokesperson for the group says they’ve only seen a draft of the proposed standards, and that they’re not in effect yet.
It says the draft features a requirement of 103.5 hours of training, but that number should be more, though Safer Roads Canada didn’t say what the final number should be.
“As we approach the two-year anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Canada has not announced a timeline to implement this national standard, nor announced a date beyond which new drivers who have not completed a mandatory training program would be prohibited from operating extra-provincially,” said Chris Joseph of St. Albert, Alta., a director of Safer Roads Canada.
“This should be a priority and we deserve some answers.”
The group says Chris and Andrea Joseph’s son, Jaxon, was fatally injured in the Humboldt Broncos crash.
“In the past year, (Transport Minister Marc) Garneau and Transport Canada moved much more swiftly to address threats to rail and air safety, such as the Boeing 737 MAX and oil train derailments, sometimes acting within hours or days,” said Ahmed Shalaby, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Manitoba and a director for Safer Roads Canada.
“We demand that road users be offered the same protections as users of other modes of transport by enacting MELT on a national scale, and by conducting a comprehensive investigation into many other safety measures, including considering truck driving to be a skilled trade, adopting graduated commercial licensing, and tracking the performance of driver training instructors and schools.”
For more information about Safer Roads Canada, click here.