The owner of the small Calgary-based trucking firm involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash has been charged with violating federal and provincial safety rules, Alberta’s transportation minister announced on Wednesday as he laid out tighter rules on the hauling industry that include more driver training.
Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said Sukhmander Singh, the owner of Adesh Deol Trucking, faces charges of non-compliance with federal and provincial regulations.
“We have served charges against the company,” Mr. Mason said. "The charges follow an investigation that was completed by Alberta Transportation into the collision.” He said the charges allege "multiple instances of non-compliance” over a six-month period.
Mr. Singh faces eight charges, including failing to maintain adequate logs for drivers, failing to monitor compliance with safety rules, and failing to have or follow a written safety program. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Mason also unveiled new rules for the trucking industry. Starting next year, new drivers will be required to have 125 hours of training before making their first trip. The current requirement is about 15 hours, a trucking industry official said.
Alberta will also require new trucking firms as of early 2019 to prove they comply with safety rules before hitting the road. Companies currently have up to 60 days after they begin operating to show compliance. Existing companies will have checks of safety rules every three years.
Mr. Mason said Alberta’s government was considering changes to trucking regulations before the April 6 collision in central Saskatchewan involving a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team and others, which killed 16 people and injured 13. After the crash, the minister said, he made changing the rules a priority.
The changes were welcomed by the head of the industry’s main lobbying body in Alberta.
"The implementation of mandatory entry-level training will ensure the industry has the fundamental tools to operate on public roadways,” said Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.
He said there is a concern in the industry about how much the additional training will cost drivers. Programs currently cost $7,000 to $15,000.
Grants are available to help drivers, Mr. Mason said, but not everyone will qualify. The minister said the government expects most trucking companies will help pay for the additional training.
Driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was arrested in July at his Calgary home and faces 29 charges – including 16 of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. Mr. Sidhu was released on $1,000 bail under the condition he surrender his passport and not drive.
A federal Crown prosecutor has been assigned to the case of the trucking company owner because the charges are both federal and provincial. The maximum penalty for breaking the federal rules is $5,000 for every offence, while the court can impose a penalty of up to $2,000 for each provincial offence. Mr. Singh’s first court appearance is on Nov. 9 in Calgary.
The provincial license for Adesh Deol Trucking is suspended.
Myles Shumlanski, whose son Nick was injured in the crash, was pleased to hear about the charges. Mr. Shumlanski said governments need to look at why licences are being handed out so easily.
"It’s a good start,” he said. "Some of the people who did the charging need to look at that, too, because why did it get to that point? It’s still happening.”
With a report from The Canadian Press