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Updated: Saskatchewan backtracks on training stance

REGINA, Sask. – Days after announcing plans for mandatory entry-level truck driver training, SGI’s Auto Fund Division has issued a second memo that backtracks from the stance.

“We would like to clarify that no decision has been made regarding Class 1 training,” writes Kwei Quaye, vice-president, traffic safety, driver and support services, in a document dated Friday.

“To be clear, mandatory Class 1 training is an option that has not been ruled out. Along with the government of Saskatchewan, we continue to work with the industry and other stakeholders to determine the exact content of the new curriculum, including the number of hours of training.”

The reversed position surprised industry representatives including Susan Ewart, executive director of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association.

In the original memo to the province’s driving instructors, SGI’s auto funds division announced plans to require a minimum of 70 hours of training before securing a licence. A plan to be in place no later than 2019 was to be implemented “shortly thereafter”.

“As you know, a lot has been in the media following the Humboldt tragedy and there is a spotlight on Class 1 testing and Class 1 driver training and that’s OK,” it said at the time. “Mandatory means just that: a driver will no longer be able to challenge the road test to become a Class 1 driver unless they have completed the mandatory training at a recognized school first.”

Driver training standards had been brought into the spotlight following an April 6 truck and bus collision in Humboldt, Sask., that killed 16. Alberta and Manitoba are also said to be exploring the training approach. Only Ontario mandates entry-level truck driver training, at a minimum of 103.5 hours.

SGI has been working on a standardized curriculum for Class 1 training schools since July 2017. But the earlier memo had been the first to suggest mandated training.

The 70-hour limit itself had been proposed by regulators in the context of upgraded curriculum, Ewart says. “It wasn’t something the trucking association said, ‘Hey, let’s start here.’”

If anything, the 70 hours was seen by the industry group as falling short.

That 70 hours of training included 18 hours in a classroom, but the Saskatchewan Trucking Association had proposed 37.5 hours of classroom training, she said as an example.

“Even if they do take driver training from a driver training school, they’re still not coming out with an understanding of how to be a professional truck driver,” Ewart explains, referring to knowledge needed around issues such as weights and dimensions and hours of service.

But the 70 hours was still seen as a step in the right direction, she says.

“We’d been receiving a lot of questions and inquiries from driver instructors and driving schools regarding the discussion that’s been happening in the media,” said Tyler McMurchy, manager of media relations for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, referring to how the original memo came about. But the internal bulletin to driver development areas “was not clearly written”, he added, suggesting it was “interpreted in a way that anybody could have.”

“There is going to be something stronger put in place, but exactly what that will look like has not been determined yet,” he said. “Mandatory training has not been ruled out, but it’s just that the decisions haven’t been made yet. We do intend to have something different in place in early 2019.”

“Even the number of hours has not been determined yet,” McMurchy adds. “Seventy [hours] is something we had been looking at. It may have been something different.”

“The work SGI was already doing suggested that the training will consist of classroom hours, hard hours (where a driver is learning about the rig and how to inspect it), and then behind-the-wheel hours with practical hands-on driving,” Quaye writes of SGI’s current position. “The written, pre-trip, and road tests would be updated to reflect the enhanced curriculum once it’s developed.”

Representatives of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, Manitoba Trucking Association, and Saskatchewan Trucking Associations will be discussing the issue in a call scheduled for today, Ewart says.

  • this story has been updated to include comments from SGI.

The post Updated: Saskatchewan backtracks on training stance appeared first on Today's Trucking.

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