Updated: Prairie provinces look to mandate training

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REGINA, Sask. – Saskatchewan is joining Manitoba in a move to mandate training for entry-level truck drivers, following the April 6 bus and truck crash in Humboldt, Sask., that killed 16.

In a memo to all Saskatchewan driving instructors, SGI’s auto funds division announced plans this week to require a minimum of 70 hours of training before securing a licence. A plan is to be in place no later than 2019 and be implemented “shortly thereafter”.

“As you know, a lot has been in the media following the Humboldt tragedy and there is a spotlight on Class 1 testing and Class 1 driver training and that’s OK,” the memo says. “Mandatory means just that: a driver will no longer be able to challenge the road test to become a Class 1 driver unless they have completed the mandatory training at a recognized school first.”

Details around what the training will look like are still being established, but SGI says it is looking to draw aspects from Ontario.

Ontario is currently the only province in Canada that mandates training, setting its standard at 103.5 hours of classroom and behind-the-wheel time before earning a licence.

“The training will  produce qualified and skilled drivers and it will eliminate inconsistencies between how people are getting their training and the content of that training,” the memo adds.

The insurer responsible for training in the province says it had been working since July 2017 with the Saskatchewan Trucking Association and Class 1 training schools to improve training.

The news follows an announcement by the Manitoba government that it is also consulting on a plan to standardize training and certification for commercial drivers – meeting National Occupational Standards.

“This is something the trucking industry has asked for and we want to work together in a collaborative way to see how this would work in Manitoba,” said Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler.

“It is clear that Manitoba needs to start this work to ensure that all provinces are moving together on a standardized system of training,” he said. “This work is beginning immediately and we hope to move forward with a plan of action as soon as possible.”

“There’s work to be done but I think it’s work headed in a positive direction,” says Terry Shaw, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association. “What we didn’t get from our minister is any commitment to what a standard is.”

Manitoba currently has a voluntary training standard of 244 hours, but that’s followed by just four of the 18 private vocational institutes registered for driver training. And those four schools have curricula that aligns with National Occupational Standards established by Trucking HR Canada.

“Making it mandatory is just, quite frankly, as simple as the minister saying, ‘Thou shalt,’” Shaw says.

The Manitoba Trucking Association will be promoting the idea of mandatory entry-level training that meets the National Occupational Standard.

“We’re quite pleased with where everything is going,” said Angela Splinter, executive director of Trucking HR Canada, noting how it is supporting provinces and provincial trucking associations in the such efforts.

While it doesn’t require a specific number of training hours, the National Occupational Standard informs the end goal that trainees are expected to reach. It also was the foundation of mandatory entry-level training – or MELT – in Ontario.

Alberta, where the driver of the truck involved in the collision was based, has yet to announce any formal plans. But Alberta Transport Minister Brian Mason recently said his ministry is taking a “good hard look” at mandatory entry-level training.

“The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) would like to commend the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba for their recent acknowledgement of the importance of introducing mandatory entry level training for our sector,” said Scott Smith, chairman. “As an industry, we have confidence our government partners in all provinces currently without mandatory entry level training will continue to work with CTA member provincial trucking associations to introduce similar requirements that raises the bar as it relates to commercial truck driver training.”

  • an original version of this story has been updated to include comments from Terry Shaw, Scott Smith, and Angela Splinter.


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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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