BANFF, Alta. – In the wake of the tragic collision involving the Humboldt Broncos bus, Alberta Minister of Transportation Brian Mason says government must take a more robust approach to ensure road safety.
Speaking during the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s (AMTA) 80th annual Leadership Conference and AGM in Banff, Alta., Mason said the provincial government is also looking at the safety, design, and sightlines of major intersections.
“I’ve asked department officials to start a comprehensive review of intersection safety in Alberta,” Mason said, adding that alternative designs will be considered to increase safety. “Statistics show that roundabouts can reduce fatalities by up to 9% and injuries by 8% at intersections where they’ve been installed. That’s a very significant difference.”
At the forefront during the aftermath of the Humboldt bus collision is driver training, an area Mason said his government will address.
“It needs to be put on the front burner in light of this terrible tragedy,” he said. “This is something where I want involvement from the industry very much.”
Mason said driver training needs to address whether drivers have enough training and experience to operate the type of vehicle they are driving and the type of load they are carrying.
The Alberta government is looking at mandatory entry-level driver training in the province, but no decisions have been made, and the cost a program would impose on the industry is being taken into consideration.
“It’s important that we have the right regulation, not under-regulation, not over-regulation,” Mason said.
Mason also discussed the rapid change technology has brought to the industry.
He said autonomous vehicle research has become more sophisticated and driverless vehicles will be “on our roads very soon.”
“It will change how we do transportation planning and it will change how we think about transportation,” Mason said.
The Alberta government is currently working on a regulatory framework that will allow for the use of autonomous and platooning vehicles on roadways to ensure they are tested in the safest way possible.
That framework is expected this year.
Mason said there are presently tens of thousands of jobs available in the transportation industry in Alberta, all of which may be affected in the future by new technologies like automation.
“There’s no stopping technological change,” he said. “We need to decide how to adapt to it and how to adopt it in productive ways.”
The provincial government’s capital spending going forward will be reduced, said Mason, to “more normal levels.”
An investment of $26.6 billion will be invested into capital spending over the next five years, with nearly $8.6 billion going to transportation projects, $5.6 billion for highway and bridge projects.