Sask. licensing body vice-president admits semi driver rules ‘not good enough’

A Saskatchewan Government Insurance executive admits the rules governing semi driver training are inadequate.

“We’ve been very proactive since July of last year to change what we have here. We concluded what we have now is not good enough,” SGI vice-president Kwei Quaye said.

But Quaye stopped short of promising the mandatory training demanded by some drivers and companies.

“There is currently no move to make it mandatory,” he said in an interview.

The calls for mandatory training have grown after the Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi one week ago. Sixteen people were killed and more than a dozen injured.

RCMP have not released a cause of the crash, but some hope the tragedy can spur reforms to the trucking industry.

In most provinces, including Saskatchewan, the only requirement to drive a semi-trailer is passing a written and road exam. No training is mandatory.

The wreckage of the fatal crash outside of Tisdale, Sask., on Saturday, April, 7. A bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team en route to Nipawin for a game Friday night collided with a semi-trailer, killing 16 and injuring 13 others. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

One in 10 taking semi exam have no training

According to SGI, one in 10 drivers have no training when they take their semi driving tests. For motorcycle driving tests, only one in every 200 have no prior training.

It’s not known how many of the untrained semi drivers pass, but nearly three quarters of all applicants passed the test last year, said SGI.

Any of the 2,863 applicants who failed last year were free to re-take the test the following day.

‘The model has to change’

Jason Werbics, a former Saskatoon semi operator, and other drivers who have contacted CBC said they’re horrified that dozens, or even hundreds of untrained semi drivers could be hitting the road each year. They said unprepared drivers make them all look bad and puts them and the general driving public at risk.

“Trucking is not just about driving. The model has to change when it comes to training,” Werbics, whose safe driving earned him customer awards, said.

He said his criticisms aren’t aimed at anyone involved in the Broncos bus crash, but rather the industry and regulators.

Werbics and others said it shouldn’t be easier to legally drive a 56,000 kilogram semi than a motorcycle.

Quaye said they’ve been discussing changes with the industry. He said the plan is to introduce a series of incentives and disincentives to make it “nearly impossible” to challenge the exam without training.

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