Transportation minister Brian Mason announced three changes to Alberta’s trucking regulation in Calgary July 10, including the introduction of mandatory entry-level driver training.
CALGARY, Alta. – Alberta has been discussing the idea of mandatory entry-level driver training since 2016, but it was ultimately the fatal crash of a truck and team bus that accelerated plans to require such training by January 2019.
“The horrible tragedy at Humboldt was the real impetus,” said Alberta Transport Minister Brian Mason, referring to the Saskatchewan collision that killed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos and injured 13. A Calgary driver, recently charged, was at the wheel of the truck involved in that April crash.
“The matters that we are working on today were matters that we were working on at that time, but clearly the terrible tragedy has focused everyone on the need to do even more to make sure that our highways and the trucking system are as safe as possible,” he said.
Once the framework is in place, anyone in Alberta looking to obtain a Class 1 or 2 licence – or the S endorsement needed to drive a school bus – will require some level of training. We just don’t know how much at this time. The minimum hours required on the road, in a yard, or in a classroom have yet to be determined. Mason says the provincial government will consult with groups like the Alberta Motor Transport Association over the next month to finalize the details.
The goal is to enhance, regulate, and standardize a curriculum that will include skills-based in-class, in-yard, and in-vehicle training, while also improving Class 1 and 2 knowledge and road tests.
Ontario, the only other province with mandated training at this time, requires a minimum of 103.5 hours of driver training, including 36.5 hours in the classroom, 17 hours in the yard for pre-trip inspections, 18 hours in the truck and off road, and 32 hours on road. Saskatchewan is also discussing plans for mandated training of its own.
Mason said Alberta’s training has been insufficiently regulated for some time and that the abuses in trucking and lack of oversight are quite striking.
It isn’t the only change to come. The government also plans to eliminate temporary safety fitness certificates for new commercial carriers.
“Alberta has been the only province to offer a 60-day temporary safety fitness certification for new commercial carriers prior to their passing the safety fitness requirements,” said Mason. “We are going to remove that temporary certificate.”
New carriers in Alberta will also be required to complete a mandatory course to gain a better understanding of how the rules work before operations can begin.
Mason said the province is also considering mandatory compliance reviews for new carriers within nine to 12 months after the operations begin, along with a review of carriers’ safety fitness certificates every three years.
“This will effectively eliminate the chameleon carrier, where a new start-up trucking company is put out of service for violations and then simply changes the name and reopens and continues to operate,” claimed Mason. “That has been a particular problem in Alberta. We’re the only province that issues these temporary safety certificates.”
Adesh Deol Trucking’s only other driver and truck were put back to work under a numbered company. While the government initially suspended the company’s safety fitness certificate, it couldn’t continue the suspension once the carrier showed it complied with related rules. Although conditions were attached, and a follow-up audit is expected in three months.
There are other areas expected to change around road tests, too. A review showed that Alberta’s road test fees are the highest in Canada, and that residents mistrust the examination model. Mason says the province is considering whether to make examiners government employees once again.
“The AMTA puts safety above all when it comes to the transportation industry,” said association president Chris Nash. “We believe minimum standard training is required for both new and existing commercial drivers and carriers to operate on Alberta’s roadways.”
Jeff Kasbrick, vice-president of government and stakeholder relations for the Alberta Motor Association, which partners with the CAA, said driver training and regular re-training are critical for traffic safety. “For commercial drivers, who spend significant time on our roads, as well as operating larger vehicles, we are pleased to see that a form of mandatory entry-level training on a common curriculum will be part of Alberta’s future mobility landscape,” he said.
“Humboldt underlined the urgency of moving forward,” Mason added, “and we’re prepared to do that now.”