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A/Z licence restrictions: Once again, Ontario has it wrong

In writing an article on Alberta’s new licence restrictions for those who take their road test using a truck equipped with an automated or automatic transmission, I got to searching the various provincial government Web sites for background information.
As always, the regulatory regimes vary widely from province to province. Canada sure is a hodge-podge of rules and regulations – how we manage to conduct interprovincial trade is beyond me. But as always, you can count on Ontario to have the most hairbrained schemes of them all.
Ontario, as you may know, has a ‘Restricted’ A/Z licence for those who take their road test using a truck with an automated transmission. Fine. Other provinces do as well. But in the other provinces that have such policies in place, the restriction simply prevents them from operating a truck with a manual transmission. Not in Ontario, however. Here, drivers holding a ‘restricted’ licence are also forbidden from operating a vehicle with air brakes or trailers longer than 45 ft.
So consider this scenario: An owner/operator – for argument’s sake, an experienced driver who downgraded their licence and got out of the business for a while – shows up to take their road test in their own truck with an automated transmission pulling a 53-ft. trailer. They take their road test and pass with flying colours. They are then given a ‘Restricted’ A/Z licence – and it’s now illegal for them to drive their own truck and trailer home! Never mind the fact they have no intention of driving an 18-speed or any other standard transmission-equipped truck.
Think I make this stuff up? It’s all here in the MTO’s FAQ.
Of particular interest is Question 7, pertaining to drivers who show up with a truck that has an automated transmission:
What if I decide to continue with the road test and I pass but my vehicle can’t be driven with a restricted Class A licence?
In this situation the applicant has brought in a vehicle that does not meet their needs… Applicants who choose to proceed and pass will receive a Class A licence with the restrictive “R” condition code but will not be licensed to operate this vehicle unless being taught by an accompanying driver who holds a full privilege Class A licence.

So there you have it. As far as MTO is concerned, that truck with auto gearbox “does not meet their needs” even if that’s the truck the owner/operator plans to operate day in and day out.
In fairness, last month the MTO eliminated the standard transmission requirement for senior drivers taking their annual road tests. That’s a step in the right direction. But why should any driver who takes his/her road test using an automatic be prevented from operating a truck with air brakes or pulling a 53-ft. trailer? (There’s a separate test for air brakes and the transmission does not affect the maneuverability of the tractor or the length of the trailer)!
Then again, government types with better educations and bigger salaries than mine come up with these policies, so there’s got to be a good reason behind it…right?

James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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12 Comments » for A/Z licence restrictions: Once again, Ontario has it wrong
  1. Robert D.Scheper says:

    You are absolutely right! It’s mind boggling the inconsistencies of the provincial (and even federal) beurocracy. In this illustration, what would be interesting is doing research to find out the exact reason the writer inserted that specific restriction. Who gave them the idea? Did someone lobby for it? What was their angle? Probably too much work but when you find out things like this some of the reasons are even more bizarre.
    About “education”… Not to discredit all academia (since I hold a masters myself), but some of the most ignorant people graduate fine universities. Sometimes professors just can’t stop them… sometimes it’s the professor’s progeny.

  2. Vic Perisic says:

    It looks to me that this misery of the government would like us to either go on collective vacation at once for let’s say a month, or they wanted us to retire or just quit this industry for good.
    The way everything is been going lately truck drivers are becoming endangered species, soon to be extinguished.
    If you’re company driver you may get some pay increase now and then but for owner operators, we are lucky if company pays the fuel surcharge, not passes but radder pays it at all, how ever base pay per mile stays the same. 3 years ago when i bought my truck and you need to take it to service it was around $67/ hour, now it’s $99/hour+ GST/HST. Everybody had some cost increase and therefore they had to increase the price for their service, and this is just one among many other issues in this industry.
    When everything is said and done at the end of the day the money we are making is not worth the risk we are taking every time we get behind the wheel.
    I’ve been driving for last 9 years, my truck is up for sale, and as soon as it’s sold I’m gone as far away from trucking as possible.
    And I’m hoping that I’m mistaking, but if this trend continue most of the drivers will live the industry, and we all know what’s the situation with drivers right now.

  3. Larry Bradley says:

    Sounds like our beurocrats are out to lunch on this one. Its going to get to the point where when its time to renew ones licence, & one chooses to use a truck with an automated tranny, we would be further ahead to go out of province to one where there are no such restrictions. Ontario is going to lose a lot of revinue over this one. Or maybe its rime for ALL Ontario’s professional drivers & o/o’s alike to start lobbying the gov’t beurocrats {again} to change this policy. Or maybe we should hold another election and get rid of the morons who put this policy in place in the first place. It seems quite obvious that these “lawmakers” have never had anything to do with the trucking industry or they would think twice about what restrictions they’re putting into place.

  4. RGJ says:

    It all start with a lady reporter who went and get her A licence passing the test with a pick up truck and a horse trailer, and then reporting over the news that she does not know how to drive a tractor trailer but yet she hold a valid Ontario A licence. It was all over the news and the MTO look pretty stupid, and they had a knee jerk reaction and came up with some kind of stupid new “R” restriction. Just because it is too hard to differentiate a tractor-trailer versus a pick up truck. Why don’t we ask a five-year kid I’m sure most of them will know the difference.

  5. James Menzies says:

    RGJ, I remember that report. The Global TV reporter embarrassed the province into making changes, but unfortunately they overreacted and created a whole new set of problems.
    You have to wonder how these decisions are made. I think it begins with a whole lot of “stakeholder consultations” but then it’s fed through the bureaucratic machine and what comes out the other side is often not recognizable even by the stakeholders who were consulted.
    I believe everyone could live with a restriction for those who have not demonstrated proficiency in shifting, but what do air brakes have to do with automatic transmissions? By preventing a ‘restricted’ A/Z licence-holder from operating trucks with air brakes, you’ve pretty much eliminated their employment options – all because they may have bought a truck with an automated transmission for safety reasons. It’s a head-scratcher.

  6. popkorn says:

    RGJ and James Menzies I agree with you whole heartedly and it goes to show how bright this MTO is along with all their other bright rules especially the one where once you turn 65yrs of age you are required to do a road test.
    My AZ licence expired this past August when Drivetest was locked out so according to the MTO on that date the braincells that allow me to drive a tractor trailer combination not a car all of a sudden went dead,They sure do not make it easy for us out there,it is no wonder that the industry is losing so many drivers when the Ministry themselves cannot get their act together.

  7. Preacher says:

    Since when is a standard tranny a requirement for getting a job driving a t/t or any commercial vehicle for that matter?
    If the hiring company Driver Trainer does a competent road test using a stadard tranny, they’ll know right away if the candidate can shift or not!
    So, when is the MTO going to seperate a standard tranny from an automatic for the general public in cars/pickup trucks?
    This is another dumb idea by the MTO!!!!

  8. Nino says:

    Hi could you tell me what type of vehicle I would need to get my A truck licence.Thanks

  9. Paul Dineno says:

    How about this scenario. A non-commercial driver operating a motorhome (38′ with air brakes pulling a 28 ft toy hauler. What class of license does he/she need?

  10. Tim says:

    Have a friend in ontario police, who runs Commercial Vehicle division and he has never seen this. My Lic. says D/Z/A with restriction. I did my DZ, then a year later did A Restricted. No one knows if it should say AZ. Thoughts?

  11. jim says:

    they are pretty stupid. i was got a ticket which they mailed to the wrong address. they then canceled the DL permit for not paying it.
    when i discovered the matter i fought the unpaid ticket and won. but my licence suspension went on for months afterwards, with periodic mailed threats if i did try to drive o,r not mail them my so called suspended DL
    IF YOU TRY TO phone the suspension office, they never return calls, and have always a busy line. when i finally got my DL back these retards demanded a 150.00 special fee and i had to pay it.

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