Saskatchewan fatalities involving semi-trailers way down last year

The number of people killed in collisions with semi trailers dropped markedly last year in Saskatchewan.

Mandatory semi driver training, other safety measures brought in following Humboldt Broncos crash

The number of fatalities involving semi-trailers is down markedly in Saskatchewan. There were 12 fatalities in 2019, less than half of the average number in the three previous years. (Jason Warick/CBC)

The number of people killed in collisions with semi-trailers dropped markedly last year in Saskatchewan.

Some industry officials say mandatory semi-truck driver training, and other safety measures put in place following the Humboldt Broncos crash, are the reasons.

"It unfortunately took a tragedy in our province to really shine a spotlight on the trucking industry," said Nicole Sinclair, of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association.

"Some of the things our industry had to work on and things the government had to work on, it really brought attention to the fact that, sharing the roads with commercial vehicles in a landlocked province, we all need to work harder to make that situation safer."

Earlier this week, SGI said fatalities of all kinds were down on Saskatchewan roads. CBC News then asked for the data specifically for semi collisions.

Those numbers were down even more. Twelve people were killed in crashes with semis last year. That's way down from the average of 25 from 2016-18.

(CBC Graphics)

Semi-trailer fatalities also make up a smaller percentage of total fatalities on Saskatchewan roads, decreasing to 17 per cent from the previous average of 21.

SGI cautions only 1 year of data

Tyler McMurchy of SGI cautioned that this is only one year of data, but said it's a good initial sign.

"That gives us some hope that things are getting better, people are making better decisions when they're out on the roads," McMurchy said.

"People can keep this going and drive those numbers even further downward. We want to see as few people as possible hurt or killed on Saskatchewan roads. We want to have the safest roads in all of Canada."

In the weeks following the 2018 Broncos bus collision with a semi, resulting in 16 deaths and more than a dozen serious injuries, many of the victims' families started to fight for ways to make the roads safer.

This included changes to intersections and seat belts on buses. They also pointed out that semi drivers didn't require any safety training to pull loads that often weighed hundreds of thousands of pounds.

But last year — as the one year anniversary approached — the government announced mandatory training of more than 120 hours in the classroom and on the road.

Carol and Lyle Brons have fought to have semi driver training made mandatory. The changes were made nearly one year ago. Their daughter, Dayna, was one of 16 people killed in the Humboldt Broncos crash. (Don Somers/CBC)

When families learned that farmers would be exempt, they kept lobbying and that was also changed.

Carol Brons, whose daughter, Dayna, was the Broncos' athletic therapist and was one of those killed, thanked the provincial government for listening to them and acting. She said Saskatchewan is in many ways now setting the example for other provinces.

"Obviously, they need to be seen to be doing more, I believe, since the fatalities did happen here in Saskatchewan with the Broncos bus crash. But they are also trying to keep up with the changes quicker, it seems," Brons said.

"There's still a long way to go, but it's positive to hear there are some, hopefully, benefits of these things, too. It gives us some hope that we are making a difference and that nobody else has to go through the same thing."

Truckers said they were happy to hear the new numbers. They said they also want to get home safe to their families.

Trent Lalonde, an independent driver based in Saskatoon with 27 years experience, also spoke out publicly for improved safety measures.​​​​​​

Lalonde said it took a while, but everyone seems to be on board.

"Every trucking company out there is really making a push for safety. It's not just SGI. We have toolbox meetings every day. I will get an email. When I talk to my dispatcher, they'll be like, 'Hey, icy roads today.' This is the way you should deal with it," he said.

"As soon as the weather's bad, bang, you get the phone call. Find a place to park. No exceptions. If they find you've moved — it doesn't matter if you got there safe — you could lose your job. So that's probably one of the biggest things that's stopped these accidents."