Trucker training changes protested in Alberta

Families whose loved ones died or were seriously injured in the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy joined Alberta’s Official Opposition NDP today in calling on the UCP government to roll back changes that would exempt some truck drivers from requiring training for Class 1 or 2 licenses.

Family members said it is not about politics, but about ensuring Canada’s roads are as safe as possible and that people’s lives are put before saving on costs.

“This isn’t about NDP versus UCP, this is about safety,” said Shaylyn Hunter, whose brother Logan died in the crash.

“The longer we discuss this issue, the longer inexperienced drivers are on the road and another person could lose their life,” she said. “My brother was 18, and he didn’t get to do a lot of the things my sister and I are going to do.”

Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were seriously injured in April 2018 when an inexperienced truck driver ran a stop sign and stuck a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.

Following the tragedy, provincial governments across Canada brought in mandatory safety training for new drivers looking to get their Class 1 and 2 licenses.

The former NDP government in Alberta required mandatory training for Class 1 and 2 licenses. Farmers were going to be exempt from having training for Class 1 or Class 2 licenses until March 1, 2020.

However, when the new UCP government took power, it took steps to roll back some mandatory requirements.

UCP Transportation Minister Ric McIver has said that drivers who passed their Class 1 or 2 license tests before mandatory training came into effect, but after the requirement was announced, will be exempt from needing training.

“There was a group of drivers that got caught in no man’s land,” he recently told delegates at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention in late September, explaining that people in this group had a Class 1 but would have lost their license if they didn’t get mandatory training.

He said the government will evaluate their driving records and waive tests for them if they are deemed safe.

“It’s a piece of red tape that’s getting cleared up,” McIver told delegates.

As well, the government has given farmers without a Class 1 an extension until 2021 to get training and will continue to consult with them before any decisions are made. New school bus drivers are also exempt until July 31, 2020, to get training, but McIver said he’s evaluating that.

But extending the deadline for training and exempting a block of new drivers who would have been required to take training under the former government isn’t sitting well with the NDP.

Opposition leader Rachel Notley said it’s unacceptable for the government to roll back training requirements.

She said safety for people on the road is paramount, suggesting the government could give grants to school boards if they are worried about training costs.

“(What) we need to focus on solely is the fundamental safety of people on our highways and that’s why we are urging the government to re-look at this issue,” Notley said.

The NDP will be bringing forward a motion to call for an emergency debate on trucker training in the legislature today.

The families in attendance at the legislature will also meet with McIver over the matter.

Shauna Nordstrom, the mother of the late Logan, said the government needs to realize it can’t waste a day in ensuring new drivers have training to ensure safety.

“We’ve got to get moving,” she said.

Contact jeremy.simes@producer.com

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