Alberta farmers say new rules for training and testing commercial drivers – enacted in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash – will hurt their ability to grow and deliver crops.

Starting next month, new semi-truck and bus drivers will have to go through extensive classroom and road training, along with a revamped road test.

Beginning March 1, Alberta will become only the second province after Ontario with a mandatory entry-level training program for tractor trailer drivers. They will have to complete 40.5 hours in-class, 15.5 hours in the yard where the truck isn’t moving and 57 hours behind the wheel.

The changes will also scrap Alberta’s privatized road test system, the only such model in the country. The new rules will see road tests for all classes of drivers licences administered by government employees.

Saskatchewan will also institute mandatory training for truck drivers in March.

The training and experience of truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu were cited as factors in the horrific April 6, 2018 crash in a rural part of Saskatchewan that killed 16 and injured 13 on the hockey team’s bus.

Sidhu pleaded guilty in January to 29 charges of dangerous driving and is scheduled to be sentenced March 22. The owner of the Calgary trucking company that employed Sidhu also faces several safety charges.

Alberta’s agriculture industry says it is supportive of increasing road safety but argues the new rules will challenge their spring operations.

“The industry is quite concerned about practical ability for us to respond to that before seeding and it'll jeopardize our ability to get crop in the ground, ultimately,” said Ian Chitwood, a board member of the Alberta Canola Growers Commission.

“It's tough to find labour right now and being on the farm, a lot of our work is seasonal as well,” said fourth generation farmer Dave Lantz of Lantz Farms Ltd.

“The changes are going to make it tougher.”

Farm groups are lobbying for an exemption or at least more time to comply but provincial transportation officials are not in agreement.

"Feedback from all stakeholders indicated that there should be no exemptions for any particular industry group,” Alberta Transportation said in a statement to CTV Calgary.

“Currently there are approximately 130,000 farm vehicles registered in Alberta. Approximately 20 per cent of those vehicles may require a Class 1 licence."

But Chitwood says the new rules will apply to just about every farm.

“Almost every farm, no matter how small or how large, relies on Class 1 transport of some sort for the seed, the fertilizer into the fields and then for our outputs out.”

The Alberta Motor Transport Association backs the rule changes.

-With a report from Jordan Kanygin, CTV Calgary