'No plans' by Saskatchewan government to loosen licence requirements for truckers

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government is seeking to reassure the families of those killed or injured in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that it will not be loosening rules for truck driving licences.

"As you noted, concerns have been raised about the shortage of drivers in the trucking industry," Don Morgan, the cabinet minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance wrote in a letter to the families, some of whom voiced concerns about a potential rule change.

"However, safety is of the utmost importance and no changes are being contemplated that will compromise safety on our roads."

Sixteen people were killed and 13 others were injured after a transport truck and a bus carrying the junior hockey team collided at a rural intersection on April 6, 2018.

In a letter to the Saskatchewan government last month, 24 of the families said they opposed the possibility of the province eliminating the need for a Class 5 driver's licence before obtaining a Class 1 commercial driver's licence.

"The driver of the semi-trailer truck who caused the horrific crash was grossly underqualified to drive the semi-truck. He is one of an increasing number of untrained and unskilled drivers who are the cause of accidents causing deaths and injuries on Saskatchewan roads and highways,'' wrote the letter's authors, Celeste Leray-Leicht and Kurt Leicht, whose son Jacob died in the crash.

The families said changing driving credentials to make it easier for new drivers to obtain a Class 1 driver's licence is not in the best interests of anyone travelling on Canadian roads.

But in his letter to the families last week, Morgan said that is not going to happen.

"I assure you there are no plans to remove the requirement for a driver to hold a fully experienced Class 5 driver's licence prior to obtaining a Class 1 licence, or for any other changes that would make it easier for new drivers to obtain a Class 1 licence," he wrote.

"It is critical drivers have experience with regular passenger vehicles before attempting to operate much larger, more complex vehicles."

Morgan said any new drivers pursuing a Class 1 licence are required to complete the mandatory entry-level training program, which consists of 121.5 hours of instruction.

He said there are reciprocity agreements with a number of countries. Experienced truck drivers from those countries who can prove they have more than five years of driving with an equivalent Class 1 licence can challenge the tests. If they're unsuccessful, they are required to complete the entry-level course.

The minister commended the Broncos families for their continued focus on traffic safety and "your efforts to prevent other families from experiencing the same pain you are enduring."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2022.

— by Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press