A widow has launched a petition demanding national training standards for semi truck drivers.
Stephen Babij was killed in a head on collision on Highway 1 between Revelstoke and Golden in March 2017 when the other driver crossed the middle line. Both Babij and the other driver were in semi trucks. Babij’s dog was also killed in the crash.
“He always complained about the lack of training of commercial Class 1 drivers before he was killed,” says Pattie Fair, Babij’s widow.
Fair’s petition asks the House of Commons to regulate the Class 1 commercial licence and for it to be considered a skilled trade, make it easier for prospective drivers to get funding for training, store and collect information on training for each commercial driver and implement a mandatory entry-level training curriculum.
|Stephen Babij was a hay broker. On that fateful day he was transporting straw. He usually drove with his dog in the cab. (Submitted)|
“And I don’t mean any disrespect to hair stylers whatsoever. I’m glad they have that training, but I don’t understand why mechanics, carpenters, hair stylers, are all considered professional trades. But a Class 1 professional driver isn’t.”
So far, only Ontario requires truckers to take a training course. However, Saskatchewan and Alberta are making it mandatory this spring.
Fair says it’s important for this to be federal legislation, not just provincial.
“Right now, if you get a license in Saskatchewan with just a single cab and a flat deck trailer, tomorrow you can come to B.C. over mountain passes and haul logs.”
As of Jan. 23, the petition has more than 2,500 signatures from across Canada and was posted on the House of Commons website last week after it was sponsored by Saskatchewan MP Kelly Block.
Fair says she is receiving an overwhelming amount of support from industry and in particular truck drivers.
“I was expecting more push back. That really surprised me. There are some truck drivers that have told me that they don’t feel safe driving.”
Babij had been driving semi trucks for more than 20 years. Fair and her husband owned/operated a family farm and Babij was a hay broker. On that fateful day in March 2017, he was transporting straw. However, after her husband died, Fair says she had no choice to let the business go.
“I had to write off the truck, trailer, and my husband. That was our business. The truck, the trailer, and my husband. There was nothing left,” says Fair.
“I had to replace his truck and a driver within a week and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t recover that quickly.”
|Media at the time described the crash as "Fiery". There are four vehicles involved. A third semi headed eastbound collided with the crash scene. Also an SUV also suffered front-end damage. The drivers of both those vehicles experienced minor injuries, police say. (File)|
“He helped people at brake checks all the time when drivers had to put chains on. He use to tell me all the time that drivers didn’t know how to put chains on.”
“People don’t necessarily believe me that some drivers don’t know how to put chains on. It’s pretty well known in the trucking industry. And the government is okay with that? I don’t get it,” says Fair.
In November last year, the B.C. government amended the Motor Vehicle Act that included new chain up requirements. However, there are no requirements for drivers to learn how to put chains on.
“I’m trying to do something positive because I feel like my husband’s and dog’s life, our business and farm was taken. And it wasn’t really a big deal to the government,” says Fair.
However, things are changing. After the Humboldt Broncos hockey team accident that killed 16 people last April, calls for mandatory training has intensified.
On Jan. 21, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that new regulations for semi truck drivers will take effect country-wide next year, but few details have been released. Garneau noted that there will be a minimum entry-level training standard.
A link to Fair’s petition can be found at https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-2005&fbclid=IwAR2nz5i5mM2-uRe_EeX7KRywQJfVesQOitavrFAj6_eLW7Oez5YDUyEHLW8
Fair has also created a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Safer-Public-Roadways-for-Steve-and-Zak-241879183058180/