Some family members tied to victims of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash have escalated their campaign against the Alberta government’s decision to ease new training standards for some people seeking licences to drive transport trailers and buses, appearing alongside members of the Opposition New Democrats on Wednesday to call for the government to reverse those changes.
The government, in response to this pressure, said on Wednesday it will reconsider whether the changes it made to relax licensing rules for some new semi and bus drivers are appropriate. Ric McIver, Alberta’s Transportation Minister, told the legislature that families tied to the Broncos collision will now advise the government on safety policies.
The government is committed to cutting red tape, sticking up for rural Alberta and shortening the wait time for driving exams. Farmers lobbying the government for lighter rules for the agriculture sector are the most reliable supporters of the United Conservative Party.
Mr. McIver said the Humboldt families told him they are not happy about the government’s decision to allow some newly licensed semi drivers operating on farms and bus drivers piloting school buses – the folks currently exempt from the new mandatory training program – to keep their licences without having to eventually pass the stricter – and previously mandatory – road and knowledge tests should they have clean driving records. The same revision applies to people who obtained Class 1 or Class 2 licences in the six months prior to the rules taking effect. The government, Mr. McIver said, will reconsider this policy, which it implemented in September.
“I’m not making a promise or an announcement right now, but I’m telling the house what I told them: ‘We’re going to look at it,’ ” he said in the legislature during an emergency debate over trucking and busing safety. “They’ve convinced me to take a second look."
A handful of family members of victims in the Broncos’ crash, along with Pattie Fair, who became a safety advocate after her husband was killed in a semi collision, were in the legislature on Wednesday when the New Democratic Party called for an emergency debate over trucking standards. Earlier in the day, the group was part of an NDP news conference decrying the UCP’s changes.
“We can’t take any more chances with inexperienced and inadequately trained drivers of semi trucks,” said Shauna Nordstrom, the mother of Logan Hunter. "We are flipping the coin for safety.
“We ask the government to stop these exemptions.”
The debate over training and safety standards spans the country, with a sharp focus on new truckers. An investigation by The Globe and Mail, published Oct. 5, demonstrated how companies put temporary foreign workers with little trucking experience behind the wheels of their big rigs. This practice diminishes safety for both the drivers and others on the road.
Jason Kenney, Alberta’s Premier, said his government will address companies exploiting temporary foreign workers in the trucking business.
“We intend to crack down on any such abuse,” he said on Wednesday during Question Period.
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba implemented mandatory training this year for new Class 1 and Class 2 licensees in response to the Broncos bus crash in 2018, where a semi collided with the hockey team’s bus, killing 16 people and injuring the other 13 passengers. However, Alberta has since said it is considering a two-tiered system in which new drivers working in parts of the agriculture sector would be held to a different safety standard.
With a file from The Canadian Press