Saskatoon

Over 2,100 sign widow's petition demanding mandatory training for semi drivers

A woman who started a petition demanding national training standards for semi drivers after her husband's death in a crash in 2017 says she’s grateful for the support from across Canada, and hopes transport ministers meeting in Montreal today will "pull together" to take action.

Federal, provincial transport ministers meet Monday in Montreal to discuss training

Truck driver Stephen Babij, right, was killed in 2017 in a semi collision near Revelstoke, B.C. The other driver was fined for careless driving. Babij's widow, Pattie Fair, has started a petition demanding mandatory, national semi driver training. (Pattie Babij)

The organizer of a petition demanding national training standards for semi drivers says she's grateful for the support pouring in from across Canada and hopes transport ministers meeting in Montreal today will take action.

Calls for mandatory training intensified after a crash in Saskatchewan involving a semi and the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus in April 2018 that killed 16 people and left 13 others with injuries.

More than 2,100 people from every province and territory have signed Pattie Fair's petition, which was posted to the official House of Commons website a week ago after it was sponsored by Saskatchewan MP Kelly Block.

Crosses and other memorial items at the site where the Humboldt Broncos bus and a transport truck collided. Calls for mandatory semi driver training have grown since the crash. ((Olivia Stefanovich/CBC))

Fair, whose husband Stephen Babij died in a crash with a semi, said she hopes the petition will lead to action. The 51-year-old commercial driver was killed in a head-on collision with another tractor-trailer that crossed the centre line of the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke, B.C., in March 2017.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau is scheduled to meet Monday with his provincial counterparts.

"I am grateful and overwhelmed by the support. Thank you to everyone," Fair said. "I am hopeful the transport ministers will pull together today."

The petition calls for national, mandatory training standards for semi drivers.

Only Ontario requires truckers to take a training course, but Saskatchewan and Alberta are following suit in the spring.

Critics say progress is being made, but the changes are also creating an inconsistent "patchwork" of rules across the country. They say it makes no sense because semi drivers regularly cross provincial borders.

Humboldt Broncos' former athletic therapist Dayna Brons was among those who died in last year's crash. Her parents are behind Fair's petition.

In most provinces, anyone who passes the written and road exams can immediately drive any size semi truck on any road in Canada and in any conditions.

Carol and Lyle Brons are also encouraging more people to sign Fair's petition. Their daughter, Broncos athletic therapist Dayna Brons, died in the April 2018 crash.

"We hope transportation ministers will work together," Carol Brons said.

Garneau's office has said mandatory training is a good idea, but wouldn't say whether the federal government will take over. Academics have noted that while provinces currently set the rules, the federal government has the power to intervene and set national standards.

Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau is meeting Monday with his provincial counterparts. Advocates hope the ministers will agree to make semi driver training mandatory across Canada. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Joe Hargrave, minister of Saskatchewan Government Insurance, said last week he's optimistic semi driver training will soon be mandatory in every province. He expects everyone to reach a consensus in Montreal.

Fair's petition has garnered 2,139 signatures since it was posted on Jan. 14. Nearly 700 of those are from Alberta, the province where the semi driver in the Broncos crash was licensed. More than 500 people in Saskatchewan have also signed, with the remainder spread among every province and territory.

About the Author

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

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