Starting Friday, drivers looking to get their Class 1 commercial licence in Saskatchewan will need complete 121.5 hours of training before challenging the road test.

The changes to training standards for truck drivers were announced in December. Prior to the announcement, training was neither regulated nor mandatory.

“These changes will improve safety on our province’s roads by ensuring Class 1 drivers receive more rigorous standardized training, based on strengthened curriculum requirements,” Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance Joe Hargrave said in a media release.

Consideration of training changes began in 2017. The Humboldt Broncos bus crash last April pushed the need for training for semi drivers into the spotlight.

On April 6, 2018, a truck driven by Jaskirat Sidhu collided with the Broncos team bus at the intersection of Highway 35 and Highway 335. Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were injured. Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 charges in the crash on Jan. 7. At a sentencing hearing later that month, court documents showed Sidhu only had two weeks of training before the crash.

Under the new training guidelines, potential drivers will need 121.5 hours of training in the classroom, in the yard and behind the wheel. That training will focus on basic driving techniques, professional driving habits, vehicle inspections and air brakes, the province says.

Last December, SGI also launched a 12-month safety monitoring program for new drivers, which mandates remedial action for any safety concerns for drivers in their first year on the road.

Starting Friday, Class 1 tests will only be administered by SGI examiners.

Standardized curriculum has been added to driving schools across Saskatchewan since December. The schools have seen a spike in customers over the past few months as potential drivers raced to get their licences before the extended training hours came into effect. SGI says the number of booked examinations more than doubled between December and February once the training regulations were announced.

Drivers who currently have a Class 1 licence will be grandfathered into the new regulations.

Anyone driving a semi for farming operations is exempt from the mandatory training, but will need to pass more “rigorous testing” to get an “F” endorsement on their current licence, the province says. Farm drivers are only allowed to drive within Saskatchewan’s borders and will be subject to the same 12-month monitoring program as Class 1 drivers.

Ontario used to be the only province with mandatory training. On March 1, Alberta introduced 121.5 hours of training for truck drivers.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau has agreed to develop a Canada-wide standard for truck driver training by 2020.