Entry-level training standard en route for Canadian truckers within a year

MONTREAL — The country’s transportation ministers have agreed to develop an entry-level national training standard for semi-truck drivers.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the minimum bar to get behind the wheel of a semi truck will ensure truckers have the necessary skills, and will be in place by January 2020.

“We are motivated by the need for safety,” Garneau told reporters in Montreal. “Canadians expect that people who receive their licence as drivers of semi-trailers and large vehicles should be properly prepared through training before they assume those duties.”

Currently, Ontario is the only province with mandatory truck driver training. Saskatchewan and Alberta are to require mandatory training starting in March.

The changes in Saskatchewan came after last year’s Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy, which Garneau referenced at a Montreal press conference following a transportation ministers meeting Monday.

Sixteen people were killed when the team’s bus and a semi-unit loaded with peat moss collided last April.

The driver of the semi-truck recently pleaded guilty to all charges against him, telling his lawyer he did not “want to make things any worse.”

Saskatchewan Highways Minister Lori Carr said the tragedy served as a reminder of the need for stricter trucking regulations across the board.

“We are truly one big country, and you go from province to province, so the same rules should apply,” Carr said.

Garneau added that a three-month-old task force examining school bus safety is ongoing and did not confirm whether wearing seatbelts will become mandatory.

He pointed out that riders range widely in age, with implications for safety and emergency protocols.

“What happens if there is an emergency and everybody has to get out of the bus quickly?” Garneau asked.

“We’re looking for pilot projects and we’re looking to do this as quickly as possible so that we evaluate the issue of seatbelts. At the same time, we’re looking at other things.”

The federal government can mandate seatbelts on new buses, but the jurisdiction around any compulsory retrofits on existing buses lies with the provinces, Garneau added.

The ministers also agreed to continue to try to harmonize technical standards for electronic logging devices on trucks with an eye to more efficient interprovincial trade.

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