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CANADA: Garneau optimistic about implementing national standards for truck drivers

Garneau says he favours minimum entry-level training standards for truck drivers and believes that every province should have that requirement
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SHERBROOKE, Que. — Canada's transport minister is optimistic that provinces and territories will agree on a national standard for semi-truck driver training when they meet next week.

Marc Garneau says he favours minimum entry-level training standards for truck drivers and believes that every province should have that requirement.

"I am optimistic that we will come to an agreement on that with the idea of putting together a national standard," he said Thursday.

Ontario is currently the only province with mandatory truck driver training consisting of 103.5 hours.

Saskatchewan introduced mandatory training for semi-truck drivers in December. Starting in March, drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence will be required to undergo at least 121.5 hours of training.

Lori Carr, Saskatchewan's minister of highways, said she would also like to see minimum standards across the country.

"What we've come up with here in Saskatchewan, it sets a really good base, and if we can have that consistency right across Canada, it's this type of forum that will help those conversations take place," she said of Monday's meeting in Montreal.

The changes in Saskatchewan came after last April's Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured when the junior hockey team’s bus and a semi collided at a rural intersection.

The truck's driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, has pleaded guilty to multiple charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. He faces a sentencing hearing at the end of the month.

Carr said the Broncos crash hit close to home and is part of what's driving the province's agenda at the meeting.

"We have truck drivers who go right from Ontario all the way to B.C. and we have imaginary borders," Carr said. "They cross all of our provinces. We just want to ensure that those standards are met."

Alberta is making driver training mandatory as of March 1, with a standardized curriculum for new commercial truckers and bus drivers. All new commercial carriers in Alberta will have to prove they comply with transportation safety regulations before they start operating.

Garneau said he will look at Ontario and Saskatchewan's standards to devise a plan which ensures potential drivers are exposed to a number of different situations.

He said he has jurisdiction to impose a national standard but would prefer to work with colleagues.

Carr said Crown-owned Saskatchewan Government Insurance has been talking to every provincial transportation minister about developing training standards.

Seatbelts on buses will also be part of the agenda at Monday's meeting.

Ottawa announced last June that all newly built highway buses will be required to have seatbelts by September 2020.

Carr said she has "no idea" where the discussion will lead or what will come out of it.

"Right now, it's very preliminary," she said. "But we want to have the discussion on where we're going to go on this."

Parents of the Broncos, including former NHLer Chris Joseph who lost his son Jaxon, have previously called for regular seatbelt use on buses.

— By Ryan McKenna in Regina. With files from Joan Bryden.

The Canadian Press