'Safety is safety': Canadian Trucking Alliance says Sask. farmers should not be exempt from training

The President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance says the Saskatchewan government was wrong to grant farmers an exemption from mandatory semi driver training.

Sask. government says farm exemption could be reviewed

The Canadian Trucking Alliance says all semi drivers should be required to take training. Saskatchewan announced mandatory training is coming in 2019, but farmers would be exempt. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance says the Saskatchewan government was wrong to grant farmers an exemption from mandatory semi driver training.

Stephen Laskowski said it doesn't matter if you're full-time semi driver or a farmer hauling grain part-time — you should still have to take formal training.

"Safety is safety," said Laskowski, whose alliance represents provincial trucking associations. "Why that vehicle is on the road shouldn't matter,"

On Monday, the Saskatchewan government announced mandatory training for new semi drivers. The changes take effect in March.

Drivers will be required to take at least 121 hours of training in the classroom and behind the wheel.

But farmers will be exempt, as long as they stay inside Saskatchewan. SGI Minister Joe Hargrave said most farmers drive semis short distances and aren't on the road full time, so training isn't required.

Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. (Ontario Trucking Association)

Laskowski disagrees. If you encounter a semi on the highway, it doesn't matter whether it's driven by a farmer or not, he said.

"The Canadian Trucking Alliance believes the application of laws should be applied to trucks regardless of the freight they're hauling," he said.

The Ontario-based Laskowski's comments echo those coming out of Saskatchewan.

Swift Current driving instructor Reg Lewis said the exemption for farmers means there will still be untrained semi drivers on Saskatchewan roads.

"I don't think there should be any exemptions," Lewis said.

Fellow Saskatchewan driving instructor Murray Coleman said if farmers aren't trained, they should at least be restricted to a limited distance from their farm.

Swift Current driving instructor Reg Lewis takes a student in a semi during a recent training session. (Jason Warick/CBC)

"Let them do their job, but keep them out of the motoring public," said Coleman, who runs road tests for Bison Transport. "There are good farmers, but if they want to run a couple hundred miles to take their grain, they should have to have a commercial licence."

Todd Lewis, president of the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said the new rules strike a good balance. But he's also open to training rules for farmers.

"And if there is an issue for safety for farm driving, let's talk about that, and if we need more training, let's get it," he said.

Laskowski says he's encouraged the government is open to further changes — Hargrave said Monday that the farm exemption was a test case and would be monitored.

Laskowski wants all provinces to bring in mandatory training for all drivers. At the moment, only Ontario does, and farmers are not exempt. Saskatchewan's program starts in March, and Alberta is also starting mandatory training in 2019.

He hopes it will be high on the agenda when premiers meet early in the new year. "Governments need to consult," Laskowski said. "But it's time to move."


Jason Warick


Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.