Saskatoon

Semi-trailer driver who caused Humboldt Broncos crash had 70 violations in 11 days

The semi-trailer driver who caused the Humboldt Broncos crash committed 70 violations of federal and provincial trucking regulations in the 11 days leading to the April 6 tragedy, according to a court document.

Sentencing hearing for Jaskirat Singh Sidhu continues Tuesday in Melfort, Sask.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver of the semi truck involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, pleaded guilty this month to 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. (The Canadian Press)

The semi driver who caused the Humboldt Broncos crash committed 70 violations of federal and provincial trucking regulations in the 11 days leading to the April 6, 2018 tragedy, according to a court document.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu should not have been on the road when he caused the death of 16 people and injuries to 13 others, stated a Saskatchewan government report filed during Singh's sentencing hearing Monday in Melfort, Sask.

Families affected by the crash say they were not made aware of Sidhu's infractions and say it's upsetting.

Michelle Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan Straschnitzki was partially paralyzed in the crash, said the news felt like a "gut punch." She said the families should have been told about the infractions.

"​I'm absolutely horrified knowing this was so unbelievably preventable," she said via text. "I feel like the industry, and inspectors, and our government all let us down."

"It makes me so angry all over again. It really shows how unmanaged, under-mandated, and under-educated the industry has been for years."

Scott Thomas' son Evan died in the crash. He has been vocal about making changes to the trucking industry.

"I've said a few times that a whole bunch of things had to go wrong for a disaster and a tragedy of this size," he said.

"I think, to be honest, Mr. Sidhu is a symptom of a much larger, sicker trucking industry."

The April 20 report, signed by two senior enforcement officers in the provincial government's Ministry of Highways, is contained in the appendix of the RCMP's Forensic Collision Reconstruction Report made available Monday during the hearing. 

"If Jaskirat Singh Sidhu had been stopped and inspected on April 6, 2018 prior to the incident, he would have been placed under a 72-hour out of service declaration … preventing him from operating a commercial vehicle," the report said.

Sidhu has pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving. His lawyer, Mark Brayford, had said Sidhu wanted to spare families the pain of a lengthy trial.

Court heard Monday that Sidhu was not drunk, high or speeding, and was not using a cellphone at the time of the crash.
Court also heard Sidhu did not touch his brakes, despite multiple road signs and a 1.5-metre wide stop sign containing a functioning, flashing light at the intersection.

The dozens of violations cited in the report revolve mostly around missing data in Sidhu's driver log book, according to the report. Regulators track these log entries in part to prevent drivers from working when excessively fatigued or sleepy.

Sidhu failed to account for time on and off the job, to account for the city or province where he spent each shift, and to document whether the vehicle had any defects.

On some entries, he'd sign off on a completed work day before starting to drive. On days such as March 30 and 31, the log book is completely missing.

Steve Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said that log books are important for showing you aren't violating hours-of-service regulations.

"It is extremely important that you are following the rules, because we know that the greatest factor leading to truck collisions are human factors, and fatigue plays a part in that," he said.

Laskowski said electronic devices certified by third parties should be implemented as soon as possible in Canada, as the records are harder to falsify. He said the alliance is working on having that rule implemented by early 2020.

Data from the Canadian Trucking Alliance states that enforcing regulations is difficult because of incomplete or falsified logs. Despite that, the alliance recorded "an average of 9,400 convictions per year for hours of service violations between 2010 and 2015."

Around a quarter of the hours-of-service convictions are for exceeding the maximum hours allowed by the regulations. Eleven per cent are for "operating two daily logs at the same time or for falsifying the information in the daily log." Around half of the hours of service convictions are for "failing to maintain or failing to produce a daily log."

The Humboldt Broncos team and community has received support from around the world — something they say has helped them survive this tragedy. (Karen Pauls/CBC )

The Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) agreed with the trucking alliance in that electronic logging is more effective.

STA executive director Susan Ewart said it's the responsibility of both the driver and the trucking company to be vigilant about logging activity. 

"Sometimes truck drivers may keep a second set of logs which totally is not OK either. It's illegal. You can't do that. This will prevent some of that sort of thing," she said.

There are "strong concerns" about the documentation for April 6, inspectors said in the report. Sidhu drove from Saskatoon to Carrot River, Sask., to pick up the load of peat moss, then drove another 50 kilometres before the crash occurred. However, the total distance on the vehicle odometer was higher.

"This would leave approximately 31.8 kilometres unaccounted for by the driver's daily log," stated the report.

The report also questions Sidhu's log book entry showing he took five hours off duty in the middle of his work day April 6, just two hours before the crash occurred.

"This is not a common practice in the industry," stated the inspectors.

"These areas must be further investigated to get a true picture and timeline of Jaskirat Singh Sidhu's day on April 6, 2018."

In total, inspectors found 51 violations of federal regulations as well as 19 provincial violations.

It's unclear whether the inspector's concerns were investigated further.

Inspectors were also asked to look at the log book of the Broncos' bus driver, Glen Doerksen. They stated Doerksen had up-to-date records and "no violations were found."

Sidhu's sentencing hearing will run until Friday. Parents, siblings and other supporters are expected to continue reading from the scheduled 75 victim impact statements.

Sukhmander Singh, owner and director of Calgary-based Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd and Sidhu's employer at the time of the crash, faces eight counts of failing to comply with various safety and log-keeping regulations.

About the Author

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

With files from Emily Pasiuk and Bonnie Allen

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