Veteran semi drivers welcome mandatory training in Sask.

Semi-trailer drivers are happy to see new mandatory training rules for their occupation in Saskatchewan.

Training will be mandatory across Canada in 2020

Veteran semi driver Dwight Sitter says the new mandatory training in his occupation will make the roads safer for everyone. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Semi-trailer driver Dwight Sitter has been on the road for more than 40 years and has never been in a crash.

But the Swift Current man has driven past dozens of them, some fatal.

The Humboldt Broncos bus collision with a semi that left 16 people dead nearly one year ago deeply affected him and his fellow drivers. That's why he was happy to see new mandatory training rules for semi drivers in Saskatchewan.

"They've got to watch what they're doing with these drivers. These new guys need more training," he said during a rest at a Saskatoon truck stop.

121 hours of training

As of last week, new semi drivers will be required to take a minimum 121 hours of training before getting behind the wheel. It includes a mix of classroom sessions, driving in the yard, and supervised driving on public roads.

Broncos parents such as Lyle and Carol Brons, as well as other victims' families, say more needs to be done. But they say this is a good start.

Sitter said many of the crashes are caused by young drivers who overestimate their abilities.

He said the change is overdue, and fellow veteran driver Robert Dawson agrees.

Robert Dawson says the introduction of mandatory semi driver training is long overdue. (Jason Warick/CBC)

"It should have been that way from the start. Yeah, we're independent in a lot of ways, but how many occupations are you responsible for $300,000 worth of equipment going down the road?" Dawson said.

Dawson has been on the road since 1986. He took nearly two years of training. Even after he got his licence, he was accompanied by a mentor for the first few months. He was gradually allowed to take bigger trucks on longer trips.
The calls for graduated licensing and mentoring are also included in a national petition that has received more than 4,000 signatures.

"They need to learn to concentrate on the road, and that takes training. That takes mentoring. That takes patience," Dawson said.

Training is already mandatory in Ontario. Alberta will soon follow. It will be mandatory across Canada in 2020.