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Updated: 12th July 2018 14:20

Alberta truckers say safety overhaul long overdue

Decertified trucking companies operating under "chameleon" names are a chronic hazard in Alberta's trucking industry, says an operator applauding pending regulatory changes in the industry.

The province is closing a loophole which allows decertified drivers to stay on the road

Citing the Humboldt Broncos bus crash as the impetus to get it done as soon as possible, the province has announced a regulatory overhaul for the trucking sector. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Decertified trucking companies operating under "chameleon" names are a chronic hazard in Alberta's trucking industry, says an operator applauding pending regulatory changes which will rid them from the industry.

Doing away with a 60-day grace period that allows decertified carriers to operate while still working to get their safety fitness certificates is long overdue, says Bruno Muller, CEO of Caron Transportation Systems in Sherwood Park.

Under the current policy, carriers that have been shut down for safety infractions can resume operations and get a clean record simply by reopening under a new name.

The loophole is being widely abused in Alberta, Muller said.

"It's a huge problem," Muller said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"If you do have government auditors coming in and auditing your facility, and they shut you down, literally you could open up under a new name the next day, and carry on."

Citing the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Transportation Minister Brian Mason on Tuesday announced a major licensing-system overhaul for the commercial trucking industry.

Mason told a news conference the province is killing the grace period and all carriers will be obligated to prove their safety compliance before operating.

He said regular reviews would stop so-called chameleon carriers that get decertified for failing to meet safety standards only to set up shop and continue operating under a new company name.

Alberta Transportation is also proposing to implement mandatory training for tractor trailer, bus and school bus drivers, who now simply must pass a test.

Mason said the current system is plagued with chronic complaints and a "complete lack of oversight."

A bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-trailer, killing 16 and injuring 13 others. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, said the industry welcomes the changes.

"We believe minimum standard training is required for both new and existing commercial drivers and carriers to operate on Alberta's roadways," Nash said.

The company just keeps operating under the new chameleon name.-Bruno Muller

Closing the "chameleon" loophole is the single most important policy change being made, Muller said.

"We've actually had auditors come into our facility and mention the problem," Muller said.

"They'll go in and audit a carrier and cancel his operating certificate and they can literally open up under a new name the next day, and carry on business until they have things straightened out.

"The company just keeps operating under the new chameleon name."

Muller said the loophole is symptomatic of a piecemeal regulatory system — and lack of co-operation between different governments — within the commercial trucking sector.

"Harmonization is a big, big issue, with everything from weights and measures to drivers' licences," he said.

"There are federal rules but unfortunately, if you stay within the province and do not go across borders, the federal rules don't apply to you.

"It's an issue that has not been addressed."

Everybody seems to treat truck drivers like they're criminals already.- John  Broere

Driver John Broere, owner of Woodchuck Trucking based in Drayton Valley, said closing the loophole will do little to improve Alberta's lenient regulatory system.

Getting certified in the province is too easy, Broere said, adding it only took him a few hours to get his company certified online.

"I had months to do that, and by the end of the hour it was finished," he said.  

"The government has set up a program where basically all you do is type in your company name a couple times, print it off and voila, you have a safety and maintenance certificate."

Broere said the regulatory system needs improvement but he worries that the Humboldt tragedy has vilified the industry.

A semi-truck driver involved in the Humboldt Broncos crash has been charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily injury.

Broere hopes the public will understand that most drivers are trying to drive safely in conditions that are often dangerous.

"There are bad truck drivers out there," he said. "There are some people that don't care or get complacent, that are willing to push and bend the rules. 

"I'm not defending [the driver who has been charged] but everybody seems to treat truck drivers like they're criminals already. It would be good to shed a little light on what truck drivers go through."

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon

Journalist

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca

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