Saskatoon

Widow appeals to Ottawa for mandatory truck driver training

The widow of a man killed in a crash with a semi-trailer last year in B.C. is pushing for changes following the Humboldt Broncos tragedy.

​Humboldt Broncos crash and her own husband’s death prompt Pattie Fair-Babij to organize victims’ families

The wreckage of the fatal crash outside of Tisdale, Sask., is seen on April, 7. The tragedy has spurred calls for national standards in training truck drivers. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The widow of a man killed in a crash with a semi-trailer last year in B.C. is pushing for changes following the Humboldt Broncos tragedy.

Pattie Fair-Babij says the federal government should take over the training of semi drivers and make it mandatory.

She's encouraging families of those killed in semi collisions to join her in pressuring governments.

"I've heard many stories, all to the same tune — Class 1 [semi] licensing is so slack," she said.

"A hairdresser requires more training than someone driving across Canada loaded with however much weight behind them. People are very, very concerned."

Provinces control semi training

Ontario is the only province where training is mandatory. The Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments said this month they are reviewing their rules around semi training and Class 1 licensing.

According to a Saskatchewan Government Insurance memo sent Thursday to the province's driving instructors, the government promised to bring in mandatory training in 2019. The government clarified Friday that there have been consultations to consider implementing standardized training for Class 1 drivers, but no decision has been made. 

Fair-Babij said a national solution is urgently needed. She noted a provincial licence allows truckers to travel anywhere in Canada.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau was not available for an interview. Transport Canada said in an email to CBC News that it favours mandatory training, but any changes would have to come at the provincial level.

Those answers aren't good enough for Fair-Babij.

"This is getting crazy. They have to change. The public wants it changed. The trucking industry wants it changed. It clearly needs to change," she said.

Pattie Fair-Babij's husband was killed in a head-on collision with a semi last year. She's calling for the federal government to assume control over training and licensing of semi drivers. (Pattie Fair-Babij )

Fair-Babij said the trucker in her husband's case has been charged with careless driving. According to reports, Stephen Babij was driving his own semi near Revelstoke, B.C,. on March 13, 2017, when another semi crossed into his lane. Babij was killed in the head-on collision.

An investigation continues into the cause of the Humboldt Broncos crash earlier this month, which left 16 dead and 13 injured. As of yet, investigators have not determined the cause of the crash. 

'It's so sad and so unnecessary'

"I know what I went through," Fair-Babij said. "Their community, their kids were all wiped out. It's so sad and so unnecessary."

Fair-Babij would also like to see an apprenticeship program and graduated licensing, which would require new drivers to drive with mentors or limit load sizes in their first months on the job.

Many companies already do this when they hire a rookie, but Fair-Babij and others note there's nothing stopping those trucking firms that don't.

Stephen Babij was killed last year in a head-on collision with a semi. His widow, Pattie Fair-Babij, is pushing for changes to the trucking industry. (Pattie Fair-Babij )

According to Transport Canada, the federal government oversees a limited number of commercial trucking rules such as hours of service and carriage contracts.

Transport Canada works with provinces and territories through a body called the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, but the federal government currently has no jurisdiction over training or licensing, it said in an email.

Since the Broncos crash on April 6, more than two dozen semi drivers, instructors and company owners have contacted CBC News to make similar or identical suggestions.

"We need to take the control away from the individual provinces," said longtime Saskatchewan driving instructor Reg Lewis, whose parents died in a semi collision near Medicine Hat, Alta.

"This is something that has to change. We have to get higher standards."

About the Author

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

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