Farmers and farm workers driving semi-trucks within Saskatchewan’s borders won’t be required to take the mandatory driver training that the government announced Dec. 3.
Joe Hargrave, minister responsible for SGI, said those who intend to drive a semi for a farm will have to get an F endorsement on their existing driver’s licences once mandatory training comes into effect on March 15.
However, he said government is still consulting with the sector about potential mandatory training.
“We’ve set up a panel of people that are going to continue to look at the farm aspect of it so we can get that right,” Hargrave told reporters.
“We don’t want (a situation where) a person could move from that into a commercial licence without taking the full training. Anybody that was on that F designation would not be able to all of a sudden go work for a transportation company.”
To get the F endorsement, drivers must be at least 18 years old and not in the novice driver category. They must submit a medical and pass all the Class 1 written and road tests and trip inspection, according to SGI.
This is not the same as having an F type of vehicle registration.
Hargrave said the government didn’t want any unintended consequences for the agricultural sector mainly because farm semi-trucks generally aren’t used daily and it might be hard to find a qualified driver to drive a semi from a field to bins.
He added many farmers hire commercial Class 1A drivers to haul their grain significant distances.
Saskatchewan Trucking Association executive director Susan Ewart said the for-hire trucking industry accepts the farm exemption but also wants to make sure that all Saskatchewan truckers are properly trained.
She suggested there could be a different, perhaps less extensive, curriculum for farm semi drivers since they would already have experience.
“I think as we move along that we will come to something that is going to work for our province,” Ewart said.
The new training program will be about a month long and include a minimum of 121.5 hours. This includes 47 hours in the classroom. 17.5 hours in the yard and 57 hours behind the wheel, Hargrave said.
It is longer than Ontario’s program of 103.5 hours, for example, because Saskatchewan has added an air brake component. The course also includes basic driving techniques, professional driving habits and vehicle inspections.
It will also cost considerably more. Right now those learning to drive semi-trucks pay about $3,000 and Hargrave said that will likely rise to between $6,000 and $8,500.
He has asked the federal government to consider adding the course cost to its student loans program. As well, he said employers are willing to reimburse costs to employees over a period of time.
Effective immediately, all new drivers are subject to a 12-month safety monitoring program.
As well, SGI will now conduct all driver examinations. Driving schools had been conducting about 15 percent of the tests.