Humboldt Broncos families upset by Alberta trucking regulation review

EDMONTON — Several families affected by the deadly Humboldt Broncos hockey bus crash say they are upset by an Alberta review of trucking regulations.

Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba implemented mandatory training for truck and bus drivers after the crash in April 2018.

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Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver says the province is taking another look at the rules for school bus drivers and farmers but no decisions have been made.

Families of the 16 people who died and 13 who were injured took to social media to criticize the review, which they called disgusting and ridiculous.

Toby Boulet of Lethbridge, Alta., whose son Logan was killed, said the same rules need to apply to commercial and farm drivers.

"It's wrong," he told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "Particularly on the large Class 1 operations that work with the agricultural sector. They are driving on the same roads and highways like Mr. Sidhu was driving on at the crash site."

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, an inexperienced truck driver from Calgary, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving after blowing through a stop sign at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan and running directly into the path of the hockey team's bus. His lack of training was considered a factor in the crash.

Boulet said he's trying to move forward from his son's death but the Alberta Transportation review has upset him.

"I thought it was solved, but it's not solved because economics have gotten in the way of lives."

McIver said later in the day that he had talked with Boulet.

"I have tremendous regard and concern for the feelings of the families that were involved in the Humboldt tragedy and wouldn't want to do anything to make them think we don't care about safety," McIver said in Calgary. "If they had that impression, that's unfortunate. We're going to try to straighten that impression out.

"The fact is no decision has been made ... Safety is our top priority."

He said some people in the agriculture and trucking sectors feel increased training is a hardship. The review will include consultation, he added.

Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday there may be room to relax the rules.

"If a farmer is simply taking their grain truck to the local elevator or perhaps to a regional terminal, and they have a perfect driving record and they're just driving their own product, I think some consideration might be given there, because they're not professional truckers in that case. They're not full-time truckers," Kenney said. "This is a complex issue."

Boulet and other Alberta-based families involved in the Broncos crash said there's nothing complex about it.

Shelby Hunter, whose brother Logan Hunter from St. Albert, Alta., was killed, called it a terrible idea on Twitter.

"As families, we are after change and I believe one day we will live in a world where driver regulations are much stricter," she wrote. "Breaks my heart to know how many people's lives are at risk on these roads!"

The Straschnitzki family in Airdrie, Alta., has also criticized the potential move in interviews and on social media.

"Typical govt," wrote Tom Straschnitzki on Twitter. "Come visit all 29 of us and explain why they would do this. Hope it never happens to any of their kids or spouses or relatives.

"If it did, betcha changes would happen sooner than later."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2019.

— With files from Lauren Krugel in Calgary

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