B.C. launches consultation on mandatory entry-level training for commercial drivers

B.C. government announces plans for mandatory, entry-level training for Class 1 commercial truck drivers

In this file photo from December, 2016, a tractor-trailer unit sits in ditch on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of Revelstoke. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

BRIEF: The B.C. government has announced consultations on their plans to develop mandatory entry-level training for Class 1 commercial drivers. In B.C., heavy commercial trucks represent three per cent of vehicles on the road, but are involved in 19 per cent of fatal accidents. Currently, drivers must only pass a written test and do a two-hour road test, and a 16-hour ICBC-approved course on air brake testing. A December 2018 audit of commercial vehicle safety by B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer said the government didn’t know if commercial driver licensing standards are adequate and recommended the government establish “clear responsibility for the promotion of commercial vehicle road safety education and awareness.” Revelstoke residents complain that poor, aggressive driving and driving inappropriate for winter conditions have increased as commercial traffic increases on the Trans-Canada Highway. Following crashes that shut down the highway for hours on end, local RCMP frequently issue tickets for driving infractions. Canada’s lack of federal-level driver training led the federal government to announce plans for federal training standards earlier this year. It’s unclear if the new federal standard will be mandatory. Currently, training standards vary widely between provinces. A growing trucking industry has led to a shortage in drivers, meaning more inexperienced drivers are and will be entering the profession. Late last year, the provincial government announced enhanced chain-up rules for commercial vehicles. The bottom line for Revelstoke residents is safety on the deadliest stretch of highway in B.C.; improved commercial driver training standards is one factor, but as the federal and provincial governments roll out separate plans, it’s unclear what the final standard will be or when it will take effect. Let’s hope there’s a chapter in the training manual on driving safely through B.C. mountain passes during winter conditions.

Here is the July 4 announcement from the provincial government:

VICTORIA – Consultations to help develop mandatory entry-level training for Class 1 commercial driver’s licences will begin this summer.

“Safety on our highways is our top priority and advancing the skill development of new commercial drivers would make roads even safer for everyone,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “That’s why we’re exploring what a practical and consistent mandatory training program for new commercial truck drivers could look like in B.C.”

The Trans-Canada Highway is currently closed in both directions east of Revelstoke due to a fatal collision. Photo: Twitter/@raywhitebc

The Province will gather input from the trucking and driver training industries and other stakeholders to see how a Class 1 driver training program in B.C. could align with recently introduced entry-level Class 1 driver training standards in other Canadian jurisdictions.

“The BC Trucking Association has recommended that B.C. consider minimum standards for entry-level training for Class 1 drivers, and this focused consultation is designed to help us define and set effective standards,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Everyone has a stake in ensuring that new commercial drivers have a minimum body of skills and knowledge before they begin operating some of the largest and heaviest vehicles on B.C. roads.”

Consultations will also look at how a B.C. program could incorporate the entry-level training guidelines under development by the Canadian Council of Motor Transportation Administrators for inclusion in Canada’s National Safety Code Standard.

The scene of the highway crash on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Glacier National Park on Dec. 11. Photo: Ranjit Durka/Twitter

“The BC Trucking Association welcomes today’s announcement by the provincial government to begin consultation on this critical issue,” said Dave Earle, president and CEO, BC Trucking Association. “Development of a commercial driver training standard has been a key priority for our industry for many years, and the government’s decision to meaningfully engage industry early and throughout the process is greatly appreciated. Our shared goal is to ensure that drivers entering the industry meet enhanced training standards, improving road safety outcomes for all road users.”

Consultations on Class 1 mandatory entry-level training will be led by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, with support from ICBC and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.