Seven months have passed since the Humboldt Broncos bus crash devastated the province, the country and the world — and truck driving regulations remain the same.

Industry representatives, government officials and those closest to the crash agree it’s time for that to change.

No framework

Currently, there is little to no regulation in the province for who can get behind the wheel of a transport truck.

“The framework, currently, is pretty loose for truck driver training,” said Joe Hargave, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance. “There’s really no framework, no mandatory training, there’s nothing standardized throughout the industry.”

All a driver needs is a standard Class 5 licence to book a test to become a Class 1 driver.

A Class 1 licence allows drivers to operate power units and semi-trucks.

Stakeholders agree that it simply isn’t enough. The province has promised to bring in mandatory training, and Hargrave said it’s close to coming to fruition.

“We’ve done extensive consultation from all kinds of trucking industry people — the big companies, the (Saskatchewan Trucking Association),” he said. “They’re very, very interested in having standardized, mandatory training for drivers.”

Training isn’t required or regulated

Rana Hameed owns Skyways Trucking with his brother, Babir. Together, they’ve trained hundreds of drivers to prepare them for Class 1 testing.

Hameed makes sure all drivers get at least 40 hours of training — and in his opinion, drivers need more instruction.

“We need more hours behind the wheel,” he said.

The company has five identical trucks they use strictly for training. They are weighted with a full load to make sure drivers are prepared to take on the profession fulltime. He said they teach upshifting, downshifting, right turns, left turns and techniques for backing up safely.

While those prepare drivers for the Class 1 licence exam in Saskatchewan, he still feels there is more to teach.

“We have more snow and icy conditions,” Hameed said. “We need more training.”

Training costs between $2,000 and $2,800 for the current 40-hour program. Hameed estimates increasing to 120 training hours would cost between $8,000 and $10,000. The training costs aren’t currently subsidized by SGI.

Ontario truck driver training

Before moving his company to Saskatchewan, Hameed trained truck drivers in Ontario.

It’s the only province in Canada that has mandatory truck driver training in place.

“In Ontario, they are giving training of 103 hours,” Hameed said. “I think we need at least 120 hours.”

In July 2017, Ontario introduced mandatory entry-level training of 103.5 hours behind the wheel. Drivers from other provinces who have had their licence for less than a year also need to take Ontario’s driver training before they are granted a Class A licence, the equivalent of a Class 1 licence in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan is working on its own plan, and said it has looked to Ontario for what works and what doesn’t when implementing a standardized plan.

Alta. introduced mandatory training

Alberta’s Minister of Transportation announced plans to introduce mandatory entry-level training for truck drivers in October.

The changes will come into effect on March 1, requiring mandatory training for anyone getting a Class 1 or 2 licence. The province has yet to lay out the number of hours drivers will need behind the wheel.

The four Prairie provinces and British Columbia met in July to discuss a plan to ensure trucking regulations are standardized across Western Canada. Manitoba and B.C. have yet to announce any plans for standardized training.

“We wanted to have a standardized minimum between those four provinces especially, because a lot of the trucks that we have on our roads are from between those four provinces,” Hargrave said.

Sparked by Humboldt Broncos

On April 6, a semi-trailer collided with the Humboldt Broncos team bus at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335. The crash killed 16 people and injured 13 others.

According to Hargrave, Saskatchewan started looking into mandatory truck driver training in the summer of 2017. The Broncos crash put the need for training into the spotlight.

“Humboldt really brings it all to focus, really brings it to light, really encourages all the stakeholders that we’ve talked to want things done right,” Hargrave said. “This just brings it home to everybody that’s out there, that yes, it’s time. It’s time we did something.”

“That was a big thing to all the stakeholders that we talked to. We don’t ever want to see that happen again.”

‘We need to get stricter’

Russell Herold lost his son, Adam, in the crash.

Since April, he’s spoken out on many issues, including seatbelt use on buses, highway safety and improvements to truck driver training.

“Everybody should have to take the training,” he said. “I don’t think there should be any more of just walking in and challenging the test and get it. You should have to go through a training course.”

“We need to get stricter.”

Herold farms near Montmartre and works with truck drivers regularly. Since the crash, he looks at them a little differently.

“I guess you look at them with a more critical eye, sometimes,” he said.

In an effort to keep roads safer, Herold thinks there should be tougher laws on distracted driving for commercial drivers. He would also like to see the province crack down on safety regulations for those trucks.

“There (are) a lot of good drivers, but there (are) a lot of novice, first-time amateur drivers out there,” he said. “I don’t want to call them amateurs, because they are professional drivers. But, there (are) a lot of drivers that are new to the industry and new to driving a big vehicle like that.”

“The drivers need to get competent in what they’re doing and be able to do the job properly, to do it safely. There’s no reason we can’t have a higher standard."

Truck driver, trucking company facing charges

Both the driver and the trucking company involved in the fatal bus crash are currently facing charges.

Jaskirat Sidhu, 29, has been charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Sidhu, who lives in Calgary, was released on $1,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 27.

Court documents allege Sidhu had only been working for the company for two weeks before the crash and had never driven the route he was on before April 6.

The trucking company Sidhu worked for has also been charged in relation to the crash. Sukhmander Singh of Adesh Deol Trucking is facing eight charges for not complying with federal and provincial regulations. The charges include failing to maintain logs for drivers hours of service, failing to monitor the compliance of a driver under safety regulations and having more than one daily log.

According to Alberta Transportation, the trucking company has been suspended since the crash.

Fatal errors

There are thousands of kilometres of highways in Saskatchewan and hundreds of trucks drive the routes every day.

According to SGI, semi-trailers were involved in 1,041 collisions in Saskatchewan in 2017.

Those crashes resulted in 205 injuries and 21 fatalities. Truck drivers were not necessarily at fault for all of those collisions.

Changes coming soon

Hargrave said the legislation is 98 per cent complete, but couldn’t share any specific details of what’s to come.

“We think that we’re coming around to the right answer, the right program that we can have a standardized training program throughout the industry that every training institute will have to follow. We’re pretty optimistic that we’ll have it all welded together here very soon,” he said.

No matter the cost, the province knows the changes need to be made.

The government expects to introduce the new regulations as soon as the end of the year.

With files from CTV Calgary and The Canadian Press