New mandatory training requirements for semi drivers now in effect

Herald file photo.

The new mandatory minimum training requirements for commercial semi drivers (Class 1 drivers) comes into effect today.

The changes, which were announced in December by Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave, is the result of work that began in 2017 to review training standards of commercial truck drivers.

The changes include:

 a minimum of 121.5 hours of training in-classroom, in-yard and behind the wheel, focusing on topics including basic driving techniques, professional driving habits, vehicle inspections and air brakes

More rigorous driver’s tests

A 12-month safety monitoring program for all new semi drivers

Changing class 1 road tests so they can be undertaken with SGI examiners only, not certain accredited training schools.

A standardized curriculum has been rolled out to training schools across the province since the changes were announced last year.

Existing drivers have been grandfathered into the new program.

Also under the new regulations, anyone driving a semi for use in farming operations will need to pass the same more rigorous tests to get an ‘F’ endorsement on their existing licence. They will be restricted to operating within the province and will be subjected to the same 12-month monitoring program as Class 1 drivers.

“We’re thinking (the regulations) are going to be very effective,” Hargrave said when reached by phone Thursday.

“We’re very pleased with the consultation we’ve done with all stakeholders. We think these are good regulations and they’re going to lead to much more safe conditions on our highway.”

Hargrave said the trucking industry has been supportive, noting that the original announcement was made at the offices of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association.

“They’re very supportive,” Hargrave said.

“They’re thinking it’s going to be really good for their industry.”

Mandatory training for semi drivers was one change advocates called for following the tragic crash involving a semi driver and the Humboldt Broncos team bus last April. 

The province has since met with Alberta, Manitoba and BC to discuss minimum training requirements, and according to Hargrave, Saskatchewan’s new rules are supported by those other provinces and by the federal government. Alberta announced similar regulations, which came into effect on March 1.

“We had worked on an agreement of minimum standards, and everyone had to tweak theirs a little bit for their particular province,” Hargrave said.

‘We think the work we did as the four western provinces was very solid. We all had good outcomes from it.”

Ultimately, Hargrave hopes the new regulations will help rebuild some trust in the province’s active trucking industry.

“I think it will get that confidence back,” he said. Rather than just ‘I know how to drive a truck,’ there are so many other safety factors that need to come into play through a full wholesome training program as we have identified.”