'It hit home again:' Father of Broncos crash victim wants trucking industry changes after friend hit by semi
SASKATOON -- A man whose son died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash is renewing his calls for change in the trucking industry.
Scott Thomas wants training to be standardized across Canada and to be taught similarly to a trade.
“Our truck drivers should be a skilled trade. They should be like plumbers, electricians, chefs. You go through a co-op program, apprenticeship and you work your way through a graduated licencing program before you're in charge of an 18-wheeler,” Thomas said.
The call for action comes after his friend was hit by a semi-truck this week.
On Tuesday, a semi rear-ended a vehicle in a construction zone near Wakaw, Sask., according to RCMP.
The crash led to a five-vehicle pileup, killing a 69-year-old man and injuring others – including Thomas’ friend, Jeff Helperl.
“It was surreal,” Helperl told CTV News. “I woke up to people that I had hit, because they had to jump out of their windows. He got me out of my vehicle, and I was talking gibberish. He said I didn't really come to it until I saw the deceased person.”
Thomas said his heart sank when he learned Helperl was the second vehicle hit.
“My heart just broke even more. It hit home again,” he said.
The driver of the semi in the Wakaw crash is facing the same charges as the semi-truck driver involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
Gurmeet Singh Cheema, 38, was arrested on the scene for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.
Dan Budd, the owner of Overdrive Truck Driver Training, said he’s seen the trucking industry take a turn for the worse.
“I try to encourage my guys to keep learning, but it’s hard to keep learning because there’s no comradery,” said Budd, who has been in the trucking industry for more than 30 years.
“It used to be you’d take pride in your ability to drive and now it’s just someone manning a steering wheel.”
Mandatory truck driving training came into effect in Saskatchewan in 2019, prompted by the Humboldt Broncos crash.
Drivers must complete 121.5 hours of training – consisting of classroom learning and behind-the-wheel hours.
SGI said there’s no immediate plans to implement stricter training, but it could happen down the road.
“There are no plans for more training, but I’d say for us, it’s always a work-in-progress,” said Kwei Quaye, vice president of traffic safety.