Saskatoon

Semi drivers start letter writing campaign for mandatory federal training

The growing chorus demanding mandatory training for semi drivers now includes some of the drivers themselves.

Humboldt Broncos parent applauds truckers' push

Saskatoon trucker Trent Lalonde is the organizer of a letter writing campaign calling for mandatory semi driver training. (Trent Lalonde)

The growing chorus demanding mandatory, national semi driver training now includes some of the drivers themselves.

Veteran Saskatoon driver Trent Lalonde said hundreds of his colleagues have joined his letter writing campaign.

Lalonde is also planning a semi rally through downtown Regina in the new year to draw attention to the issue. He's talking to trucker friends planning to host similar rallies in Ottawa and other major centres.

"Our movement is gaining steam," he said.

"We have all this training for other jobs, but for trucking, they just tell you to have at it."

Lalonde said all Canadians were devastated by news of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. He said he can't imagine the pain felt by the families of the 16 people killed and 13 others injured.

He said it also hit truckers hard and they all hope something good can come from it. Truckers have long wanted better training. They want their profession to be respected and they want to get home to their families after each run.

"Truckers want to be safe, too," he said.

'That makes me feel hopeful'

The father of one of the Humboldt Broncos victims applauded Lalonde and other truckers who are taking action.

"That makes me feel hopeful. The professionals probably feel their names are getting dragged through the mud. The majority of truck drivers see the need for this because there's a few outliers out there," said Scott Thomas, whose son, Evan, died in the crash.

Thomas has been an advocate for mandatory semi driver training. He said truckers themselves speaking out may finally force the federal government to listen.

"That's heartwarming because I think (mandatory training) going to make the whole industry better in the long run," Thomas said. "It has to. It has to bring everyone up to a higher level."

Evan Thomas was one of 16 people killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Thomas family)

Lalonde is distributing a form letter that can be sent to members of parliament, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau or other politicians. He said the campaign got a big boost when B.C.-based Pro Trucker Magazine picked it up.

Lalonde said he knows of hundreds who have sent the letters and that many wrote their own personal comments or stories at the bottom of the form. He said there are likely many others who've copied the form from social media.

It calls for mandatory training. It also calls for semi driving to be considered a trade in Canada, complete with a graduated licence and apprenticeship program.

"This will help prevent the numerous accidents, injuries and fatalities on our highways caused by inexperienced drivers operating equipment which is beyond their abilities," states the letter.

Ontario is currently the only province where semi drivers are required to take any training. Alberta and Saskatchewan are bringing in mandatory training next spring, although farmers will be exempt in Saskatchewan.

Lalonde and others want the federal government to step in. They say most semis travel across provincial borders, so it makes no sense to leave it up to each province.

An official in Garneau's office said Garneau favours mandatory training, but wouldn't say whether the federal government will make it mandatory across Canada. The official said Garneau plans to raise the issue when he meets with provincial ministers in January.

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