New commercial truck drivers in Alberta must soon go through mandatory training before hitting the road, a change that the province says will make highways safer.
Starting March 1, all new drivers in Alberta seeking their Class 1 and 2 licenses will have to take a mandatory entry level training course. Class 1s deal with semi-tractor trailers while Class 2s are for commercial buses.
Transportation Minister Brian Mason said that new drivers will need at least 125 hours of training with an air-brake test. Training will be standardized in all driver schools, and it includes time in the classroom and in the vehicle.
Examiners will be government employees, a recent change the province hopes will better ensure compliance. Mason said all instructors and examiners will be re-trained and re-tested so they can effectively deliver the new curriculum.
“You cannot predict the future and make no guarantees, but I can tell people that this is going to make our highways safer and ensure people driving large vehicles have better training, and ensure all trucking companies take safety seriously,” he said during a news conference.
However, mandatory training for new drivers isn’t the only change coming down the pipe.
Starting Jan. 1, companies will need full compliance documentation when applying for a safety fitness certificate. Certificates will have to be renewed every three years. Previously, companies could get 60-day temporary safety certificates without having to prove compliance.
As well, commercial carriers will need to take a mandatory safety and compliance course, as well as a knowledge test, before beginning operations. A formal, third-party review must also take place within one year of a company beginning operations.
The Alberta Motor Transport Association, which represents the province’s trucking industry, welcomed the new requirements.
President Chris Nash said while many companies have developed their own optional training courses, the mandatory requirement will establish a safety benchmark that everyone must meet.
“These changes are paramount for improving industry practices and enhancing road safety for all drivers,” he said.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan are expected to adopt mandatory training, though no official announcements have yet been made.
Mason said Alberta had been looking to adopt mandatory training for some time, but the Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy this spring pushed the province to make changes sooner.
As well, the province’s road test system has been rife with issues. A third-party report found complaints of inconsistent fees, poor service, fraud and harassment.
As for new drivers that are hired between Oct. 10 and March 1, they will be required to re-take the new tests when it becomes available, though the government will cover that expense.