There’s less than a week left to sign a petition that aims to reform commercial driving training nationwide – a petition the Brons and Joseph families are urging people to sign.
The official House of Commons electronic petition is calling for a nationwide Class 1 licensing system, making commercial truck driving a trade so drivers can apply for funding for training, creating a common mandatory entry-level training curriculum and graduated licensing system, and requiring licensing bodies to collect and store information about a commercial driver’s training within their records.
As of May 6, the petition has 6,259 signatures, plus another 1,000 on paper. The petition closes on May 14.
The petition was started by Pattie Fair of Alix, Alta., whose husband died in a crash in the Revelstoke, BC, area in March 2017.
“He was a Class 1 holder,” she said. “He was driving a semi, and he was hit by an inexperienced Class 1 licence holder head on. He had no place to go.”
In the aftermath of that collision, Fair not only lost her husband, but her business and farm.
“It took my life. Essentially, I had to start all over again,” she said. “I don’t want to see another family go through this.”
Fair, who is an occupational health and safety professional, decided to draw on her professional expertise to create a petition that would address the problem from a logistical safety and training perspective.
Carol Brons, the mother of Broncos athletic therapist Dayna Brons, found out about the petition and contacted Fair.
“We weren’t really looking to do something immediately, but did because she had already started this,” she said. “It fit in with what we were wanting to do.”
With the help of the Bronses and other Humboldt Bronco families, Fair got what was then a paper petition online on the House of Commons e-petition system. Kelly Block, the MP for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, provided the sponsorship of a MP required to get the petition online.
According to crash statistics from Transport Canada, approximately 400 fatal crashes each year involve heavy vehicles like semi-trucks.
“We have a huge problem and fortunately, myself and the Humboldt families have a voice right now,” Fair said. “We’re just trying to make it stop. We’re trying to effect some change. If I can save one little kid’s family from being wiped out on the highway, then I’ve lived a full life.”
Fair said the more stringent commercial training requirements being enacted by provinces like Saskatchewan are a good first time.
“I have a lot of respect for the provinces that are trying to step up, but this needs to be done nationally, not provincially, because the terrain is so varied.”
Driving a truck in the prairies of Saskatchewan, Fair said, is a lot different from driving in the dense cities of Ontario or the mountains of BC. A graduated licensing system would allow new commercial drivers to build the experience needed to tackle the tougher terrains.
Fair said her husband would encounter new truck drivers that didn’t know how to do operations that help trucks adapt to certain terrain, like chaining up.
“That’s another reason why I moved forward with this petition. My husband complained about this all the time, and he actually helped a lot of people at the brake checks and stuff because he wanted our roads to be safer.”
Fair said that making commercial truck driving a trade is key to her proposal.
“Once it is, then drivers can acquire bursaries, scholarships and student loans to help offset the cost of the additional training that we’re asking them to acquire every year.”
The petition she submitted said she would also like to see the training schools audited every year to provide the checks and balances are in place to ensure proper training is given.
“We don’t want to make it impossible for people to become truck drivers,” Brons said, “but also we want to make sure the right people are driving and have the right amount training behind them to make sure they’re doing is getting the best people out there.”
Brons said that everybody on the road needs to change their attitudes when it comes to driving
“It’s not just the truck drivers that have to clean up their act. It’s everybody that needs to be aware,” she said. “But this is one way that we can honour Dayna and bring something positive out of this horrible negative.”