A veteran half-driving instructor says the Saskatchewan government is heading in the right direction with new rules for future drivers.
On Monday, Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) announced mandatory training requirements for people seeking to be tested for a license to drive semi-trailers.
Instructor Reg Lewis has been pushing the government for years to bring compulsory education for drivers.
"It's about the damn time," he said. "It's a step in the right direction, but I do not think it goes far enough," he said.
Joe Hargreve, the provincial minister responsible for SSI, said the province sees from mid-2017 on how to improve training and testing for semi-drivers.
"Everyone involved in the process that led to these new demands has the same goal – to reduce the number of clashes involving semi trucks and the number of people injured and killed in those clashes," he told reporters.
Saskatchewan came under fire due to a lack of compulsory training after the fall of the Humboldt Broncos bus. Sixteen people died and 13 were injured when the team's bus collided with a semi-ramp in April.
Although Hargreaves said the revised rules were under way for more than a year before the crash occurred, he admitted that the crash had affected everyone.
"Everyone feels it in their heart," he said. "Sometimes such tragedy brings people and they go:" Yes, the industry needs to develop into this. "
Under the new SGI rules, new semi-drivers will have to spend at least 121.5 hours of training before attempting to obtain the license. It includes a minimum of 47 hours in the classroom, 17.5 hours driving in the yard, and 57 hours behind the wheel.
The province also changes the curriculum for potential truckers. It will focus on driving techniques, vehicle inspections and air brakes.
The province also promised more rigorous driving tests that will be offered only by SGI examiners.
The new requirements are expected to be set in March 2019.
A new 12-month security monitoring program is also being introduced for all new semi-drivers. SGI will monitor these drivers more strictly within a year after their test so that corrective measures can be taken if there is security concerns.
If new drivers are involved in a collision that is their fault or receive tickets, it can lead to additional penalties.
Existing class 1 drivers will be a grandfather in the system.
People driving for agricultural operations will be exempted from the new mandatory training rules and the 12-month period of additional examination.
They will not be allowed to drive semi-trailers outside the province, but will not face further restrictions.
Hargreview said the farm exemption is a test and will be monitored before it becomes permanent. He added that adding restrictions on the activities of farms running short distances could hinder staff recruitment
"It may be a bit harder to get farm workers to make their half-demons drag them away from their fields in their bins," he said. "Most farmers engage commercial drivers when there is any distance."
Driver inspector Lewis said the exemption for farmers meant there would still be unskilled half-drivers on the Saskatchewan roads.
"I do not think there should be exceptions," said Lewis.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Transport Association (STA), Susan Ewart, said members of the association praised the new changes. She said all the bumps with the new agriculture program could be healed.
"I think that what we need to consider is competency based learning," she said. "Perhaps it's a different type of curriculum, maybe it's not as broad as, let's say, if I was a new driver, what should I do."
Some provinces, such as Ontario, need a minimum of hours of training before the driver can test the license. Saskatchewan, along with many other provinces, did not require training at all.
Last year, more than 200 people who tried to obtain permission in Saskatchewan did not receive training. Three-quarters of students who are seeking a First Class license passed on the first attempt. One student passed the exam after having tried eight times in a row.
In 2009, the record number of accidents involving semifinals in each year in Saskatchewan never exceeded 943. Since then, well over 1,000 every year.