Sask. only province with mandatory training for semi drivers that exempts farmers

The Saskatchewan government's decision to exempt farmers from new rules requiring mandatory training for new semi drivers is not in line with regulations in other provinces.

'Anyone driving a very large vehicle ... had to have that training,' says Alberta minister of transportation

SGI announced Monday that driver training will become mandatory for anyone seeking a licence to drive semis, but farm workers will be exempt. (Don Somers/CBC)

The Saskatchewan government's decision to exempt farmers from new rules requiring mandatory training for new semi drivers is not in line with regulations in other provinces.

Saskatchewan announced earlier this week that starting in March, all new drivers of semi-trailer trucks will be required to take a 121-hour course, but farmers will be exempt.

Susan Ewart, executive director for the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, said she hopes that is reviewed.

"Do we feel that they should be exempt? No," she said on CBC Radio's Blue Sky.

"They are driving the same type of equipment. We do feel that there is some training that needs to happen, but I think we are going to get there."

Saskatchewan Government Insurance Minister Joe Hargrave said they've been working on changes since 2017, but that the Humboldt Broncos bus crash made everyone realize the urgency of the issue.

Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured when the bus collided with a semi in April.

Ontario already has mandatory training. Mandatory training will also become law in Alberta in March. Manitoba and other provinces are moving in a similar direction. None of the those plans include exceptions for farmers.

"We took a close look at it," Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said in an interview this week. "We took the position that anyone driving a very large vehicle such as a semi on Alberta highways had to have that training, regardless of their occupation."

Other provincial officials congratulated Saskatchewan for moving toward mandatory training, but said the farm exemption is not something they considered.

"Ontario does not have an exemption for farmers," Bob Nichols of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation said in an email.

"Extensive stakeholders consultations took place and the issue regarding exemptions for farmers was not raised ... this is a licensing requirement for all."

Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, panned the exemption for farmers.

"Safety is safety," Laskowski said this week. "Why that vehicle is on the road shouldn't matter."

Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Todd Lewis applauded the announcement, but added, "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.

Hargrave, who announced the changes at a news conference in Regina this week, said he's open to changes. He said the farm exemption will be reviewed.

With files from the CBC's Michelle Bellefontaine


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