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Advocates welcome mandatory training for semi drivers

Advocates are praising the decision to make training for semi drivers mandatory across Canada, but they say there’s still more work to do.

“I’m just very grateful the ministries have all met and are moving forward and agree that it needs to be federally regulated. That’s wonderful,” said Pattie Fair, whose petition calling for national rules for semi drivers attracted more than 2,100 signatures over the past week.

Federal and provincial transport ministers met in Montreal Monday. They said new training standards will be developed by the end of the year and will be mandatory in every province and territory shortly after that.

Advocates welcome mandatory training for semi drivers

University of Manitoba professor Ahmed Shalaby lauded the federal and provincial ministers for making semi driver training mandatory, but said there is still more to do. (Leif Norman)

“Development of this national standard represents an important milestone for road safety in Canada,” an official in Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office said in an email.

Details of the new rules are unclear. Some had called for the federal government to take over, but it appears each province will still be responsible for semi driver training. It’s also unclear, for example, whether exceptions will be allowed in each jurisdiction. In Saskatchewan, for example, the previously announced rules allow farmers to bypass the training if they stay within provincial borders.

Fair, whose husband was killed in a 2017 crash with a semi, said mandatory training will make the roads safer. Trucking is the second most popular occupation in Canada, with an estimated 300,000 drivers on Canadian roads.

Advocates welcome mandatory training for semi drivers

Crosses, hockey sticks and other items form a memorial at the site of the crash between a semi and the Humboldt Broncos bus. Calls for mandatory training for semi drivers have grown since the crash, and the changes were announced this week. (Omayra Issa/CBC)

University of Manitoba professor Ahmed Shalaby called it “a very important step.” He said the training needs to be evidence-based and data should be collected on which driving schools are producing the safest graduates. The United States is moving toward a rigorous national system of data collection, Shalaby noted.

“I’m very hopeful that will happen,” Shalaby said.

Shalaby praised Fair and the families of the Humboldt Broncos victims for their courage and advocacy. He said their voices were a powerful force in making policy makers aware of the situation.

At the moment, only Ontario has mandatory training. Saskatchewan and Alberta are set to implement it in the spring.

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