CALGARY—Shortly after his business was suspended over its involvement in the horrific Humboldt bus crash, Sukhmander Singh sold one of his two trucks to another carrier and began working as its sole driver.
Singh, the owner of Calgary-based Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd., appears to have lacked mandatory safety training, but that didn’t stop him from hitting the road at least twice for Quality Logistics this spring before the province briefly suspended its operations, according to documents obtained by StarMetro.
“The carrier’s safety fitness certificate was suspended for incomplete driver records,” Micky Elabdi, a spokesperson for Alberta Transportation, said in an email to StarMetro.
Elabdi added the certificate was reinstated in late May after the carrier complied with requirements and was reviewed by the department’s carrier services unit.
Adesh Deol was shut down after one of its trucks collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, killing 16 and injuring 13. The Broncos were heading to a playoff game April 6 when their northbound bus and the truck, travelling west, collided at an intersection in rural Saskatchewan.
The truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, was later 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 harm. He was released on bail last month and is expected to appear in court on Aug. 21.
Alberta Transportation declined to comment on Sidhu’s training while the matter is before the courts. Singh previously told media Sidhu had a year’s experience as a commercial driver before the deadly collision and just over two weeks of training from his new employer.
When reached by phone, Singh maintained he himself was fully trained to work as a commercial driver when he first started working for Quality Logistics.
However, Singh was unable to explain why the provincial government suspended the carrier once inspectors determined it failed to meet National Safety Code requirements.
“You can talk to the government,” he said. “I don’t have any answers.”
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According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request, Alberta Transportation inspectors found evidence of “non-compliance related to driver training requirements” in mid-May upon reviewing Quality Logistics’ paperwork.
The trucking company, which is linked to Singh’s home address, was then slapped with an “unsatisfactory” rating and ordered to stop operations, according to a May 18 letter addressed to the carrier’s owners, Baltej Singh Brar and Kuldeep Randhawa.
Singh previously maintained he had “no connection” to Quality Logistics but acknowledged Brar and Randhawa live at his northeast home as renters.
The carrier was first registered in October 2015 as a numbered company, 1929282 Alberta Ltd., according to its public corporate profile. It was struck from the province’s registry on April 2 for failing to file its annual returns.
Quality Logistics was revived on April 14, about a week after the Humboldt crash and five days after Adesh Deol was suspended.
“They will get Sukhmander (Singh) trained this weekend,” Charles Fox, a public safety inspector with Alberta Transportation, wrote to a colleague in a May 18 email after the owners were notified of the infraction.
Ten days later, Fox wrote Quality Logistics had “recently trained their driver and had him undergo an independent driver evaluation.”
A June 1 briefing note prepared by Joseph Cote, manager of investigations for Alberta Transportation’s safety and compliance services branch, notes “the only driver for the company was unable to provide proof of training in any of the required NSC (National Safety Code) subject areas.”
Cote noted the carrier provided records for two trips that happened before the province intervened and that the “driver did receive hours of service training” after the suspension was imposed.
Established by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, the NSC sets out 16 standards for commercial carriers to promote safety and efficiency in the industry.
“Drivers who are working for a commercial carrier who has a National Safety Code certification would be required to have NSC training in the areas that are required for the job they are doing,” Elabdi, with Alberta Transportation, said in an email.
On May 30, Alberta Transportation lifted Quality Logistics’ suspension after the company provided evidence Singh had received NSC training.
“The driver training element was the reason for our actions with the new carrier; now that their only driver has obtained training we have no reason not to allow the new carrier to resume operations,” Cote wrote two days earlier.
Last month, Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason announced plans to overhaul the province’s trucking regulations.
The proposed changes include mandatory training for commercial truck drivers and putting an end to the practice of allowing companies to operate on Alberta roads for 60 days before meeting safety standards.
The province recently completed public and stakeholder consultations and is expected to implement the changes by early 2019.
Trevor Howell is an urban affairs reporter with StarMetro Calgary. Follow him on Twitter: @tshowell