Mandatory truck driver training begins in Saskatchewan
CTVNews.ca Staff, with files from the Canadian Press
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 10:05AM EDT
Starting today, new commercial truck drivers must undergo mandatory training in Saskatchewan where an inexperienced driver blew through a stop sign last April, killing 16 members of a hockey team.
The new regulations were announced in December, eight months after a semi-trailer driven by Jaskirat Singh Sidhu collided with the Humboldt Broncos team bus. Sixteen people were killed and 13 injured. In January, Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 charges of dangerous driving, and is expected to be sentenced on March 22. At a sentencing hearing earlier this year, it was revealed that Sidhu had only two weeks of training before the incident. Prior to the new guidelines, training was neither mandatory nor regulated in the province.
“These changes will improve safety on our province’s roads by ensuring Class 1 drivers receive more rigorous standardized training, based on strengthened curriculum requirements,” said Joe Hargrave, minister for Saskatchewan Government Insurance in a media release.
The new guidelines, called “Saskatchewan’s Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program,” require drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence to take at least 121.5 hours of training and undergo a full year of monitoring. Training hours include 47 in the classroom, 17.5 in the yard and 57 behind the wheel. Training focuses on four areas: basic driving techniques, professional driving habits, vehicle inspections and air brakes.
While current Class 1 drivers need not undergo new training, anyone wanting to drive a semi-truck as part of a farming operation must pass the new tests.
Driving schools saw a spike in enrolment in recent months as new drivers raced to beat the regulations. The number of booked exams reportedly doubled between December and February after the regulations were announced.
Earlier this month, Alberta announced new minimum-hours requirements for truck drivers. Ontario was previously the only province with mandatory training.
National training standards for entry-level semi-truck drivers will be in place by next January, according to the country’s transportation ministers.
"We are motivated by the need for safety," said Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau in January. "Canadians expect that people who receive their licence as drivers of semi-trailers and large vehicles should be properly prepared through training before they assume those duties."