Sask. lifts farmers’ semi-truck exemption

Farmers who seek a Class 1 licence will have to take mandatory training to drive semis in Saskatchewan after all.

The province announced May 29 that beginning March 1, 2020, those wishing to get an F endorsement on their drivers’ licences will have to take 40 hours of commercial driver training.

These drivers will be restricted to driving semis within a 100-kilometre radius of the address to which the semi is registered. They also must stay in the province.

Then, effective March 1, 2021, the F endorsement will be eliminated and all semi drivers will need a Class 1 licence and the mandatory entry-level 121.5 hours of training.

Farmers who didn’t already have a Class 1 were exempted from mandatory training when the current program was implemented in March but were allowed to obtain an F endorsement. According to the government, 33 endorsements have been issued since they became available in March.

Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI, said the government wanted more time to examine the impacts of mandatory training on agriculture.

He told reporters that further consultation has been done, and farmers were 99 percent in support of training.

He said agricultural trucking is different because trucks aren’t generally on the road for as long and as far as commercial trucks.

SGI said farm-plated semis account for about half of all semis registered in the province but only seven percent of the collisions involving semis.

Farm leaders said when mandatory training was introduced that they believed training was necessary to ensure safety on the roads.

Saskatchewan implemented its program after the April 2018 tragedy involving a semi hauling peat moss and the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, although Hargrave has said it was in development before that.

“That tragedy spoke volumes, and anybody that I personally talked to and anybody that we consulted with, it affected all their thoughts,” he said.

The province has 24 private driver training schools, and a testing backlog has been eased, so Hargrave expects farmers will be able to access the course.

He said the government recognizes that training costs are high and has asked Ottawa to change its rules around the student loan program to make the course eligible.

The federal government is looking at Saskatchewan’s program as it considers a mandatory program across the country, he added.

Manitoba and Alberta both have similar curricula to Saskatchewan. Alberta extended its training deadline for farm workers from March 1 to Nov. 30 to accommodate seeding, harvest and a shortage of skilled labour.

Manitoba’s program comes into effect Sept. 1.

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