A trucker was sentenced to eight years in prison today for causing a crash in Saskatchewan that killed 16 people traveling on a hockey team’s bus and spurred calls for improved driver training standards in Canada.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty in January to all 29 charges of dangerous driving stemming from the April 6, 2018, crash. It occurred after he drove his semi-truck through a stop sign, hitting the bus. It was carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team as it passed through the intersection. The crash also left 13 people injured.
Sidhu was hauling two trailers loaded with peat moss as he drove on Highway 335, traveling 86 to 96 kilometers per hour (53.4 to 59.6 mph), under good conditions. Investigators from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police concluded that Sidhu hadn’t applied the brakes, according to court documents.
Sidhu’s lawyer said he became distracted by a loose tarp on one of his trailers.
Sidhu had been on the job for just three weeks, and investigators inspecting his paper log found he committed 70 violations of federal and provincial trucking violations in 11 days leading up the crash.
“If Jaskirat Singh Sidhu had been stopped and inspected on April 6, 2018 prior to the incident, he would have been placed under a 72-hour out of service declaration for failing to produce the current daily log and previous 14 days … preventing him from operating a commercial vehicle under the Federal Commercial Vehicle Driver’s Hours of Service Regulation for that time period,” Saskatchewan commercial vehicle enforcement officers wrote.
Sidhu had undergone one week of training and spent two more weeks operating a truck alongside an experienced driver before he started working alone.
The accident cast a public light on trucking industry regulations in Canada.
In January, the federal government announced a national mandate entry-level driver training to take effect in 2020 – a year when electronic logging devices will also be required. Ontario is the only province that mandates such training, while Alberta and Saskatchewan are in the process of creating a standard.
Sidhu’s former employer, Sukhmander Singh, the owner of Calgary-based Desh Deol Trucking, goes on trial next week on charges of failing to comply with government safety regulations. He is accused of failing to maintain driver logs, not monitoring driver safety compliance and having more than one daily log on a given day.
Ahead of the trial, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has called for a national standard for carriers in order to begin operations.
“High-performing truck drivers are not only a product of their continuous commitment to their profession but are a reflection of the culture of compliance and training of their carrier,” said CTA chairman Scott Smith. “The perfect equation of truck safety includes a committed carrier and driver, and we must begin ensuring that every carrier that enters and remains in our sector understands and is committed to that.”