Sask. government commits to mandatory training for semi-trailer drivers, according to SGI memo

The Saskatchewan government will begin mandatory training for semi-trailer drivers in 2019, according to a memo sent Thursday to the province's driving instructors.

Minimum 70-hour course will be in place in 2019, according to memo

The crash involving the Humboldt Broncos team bus and a semi trailer, which killed 16 and injured 13, led to calls for standardized training for driver of semi-trailers. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The Saskatchewan government will begin mandatory training for semi-trailer drivers in 2019, according to a memo sent Thursday to the province's driving instructors. 

In an email obtained by CBC News, the provincial agency that handles vehicle licenses and standards says it will "have a plan in place by early 2019, with full implementation shortly after," for mandatory Class 1 driver training. 

"We are all united in wanting to make our roads as safe as possible," Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) said in the email, which referred to the fatal Humboldt Broncos collision earlier this month between the team's bus and a semi. The crash left 16 dead and 13 injured.

The crash led to calls for mandatory training for semi-trailer drivers, which is optional in every province except Ontario. According to SGI, 10 per cent of the more than 2,000 people who took their Class 1 license exam last year had taken no training. It appears, according to SGI, almost all of them passed. 

The memo says the province will start with a minimum course length of 70 hours, with a possibility of matching Ontario's requirement of 103.5 hours.

"Ontario has done a lot of very good work in this regard," states the memo. 

Earlier this month an SGI vice president said there were no plans for mandatory training. Last week, SGI Minister Joe Hargraves went a bit further, saying he was "optimistic" training would eventually become mandatory, yet giving no time frame or details.

'Really great news'

One veteran driving instructor, who spoke out this week in favour of mandatory training, was elated by the development.

"This is great news. It's just really great news," said Swift Current's Reg Lewis, whose parents and three other family members were killed in crash involving a semi.

Lewis hopes for a "domino effect" on other provinces. The Alberta and Manitoba governments said this month they will take an urgent look at the issue of mandatory training.

Saskatchewan instructor Reg Lewis says he's elated the province is making training mandatory for semi-trailer drivers. (Jason Warick/CBC)

SGI says it will work with training schools and others in the industry to develop a standardized curriculum. 

"This is good news for the province and the motoring public and we believe this initiative will increase traffic safety on Saskatchewan roads," the memo states.

At the moment, each school can offer — and each student can request — a different type and length of training on a sliding price scale.

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About the Author

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.