The Saskatchewan public appears both for and against the government’s decision to exempt farmers from mandatory truck driver training for now.
Radio phone-in shows and social media sites last week heard from those who think farmers should be subject to the same training as those seeking a Class 1 commercial licence and those who think they have enough experience driving large equipment and semis that they don’t need instruction.
Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said he believes all truckers should be properly trained but farmers probably don’t need exactly the same training as other commercial drivers given the nature of their work.
“We don’t need to spend 30 hours learning how to back up to a loading dock,” he said.
The mandatory course, which begins in March 2019, includes 121.5 hours in the class, the yard and behind the wheel. The cost has been estimated at between $6,000 and $8,500.
Lewis said if farmers are required to comply and if they have to go from a rural area to the city to take the course, they will also have the cost of hotels and meals for a month.
He said as far as safety is concerned, all drivers should receive the same instruction.
The exemption under the mandatory training does require farmers to obtain an F endorsement on their licences.
The criteria is: at least 18 years old, not a novice driver, submit a medical, pass all the Class 1 written and road tests, and road inspection.
Lewis said about half of the semis registered in the province have farm plates, which is not the same as the endorsement, but are responsible for only eight percent of the accidents.
“It’s the other 92 percent they need to get out in front of,” he said.
He added that most farmers do hire commercial truckers to haul grain because it’s usually more efficient.
Susan Ewart, executive director of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, said that organization would like mandatory training for all drivers to keep the roads safer. However, she said farmers might not require the full course that a new driver will need.
The government has said it continues to review the requirements for farmers who operate their own semis and change could still be coming.
No other province that is implementing mandatory training has exempted farmers. Ontario already has mandatory training. Alberta’s course will be in effect in March and Manitoba will hold at least two consultation meetings in early January for input on its standards.