Mind the Paper Trail: Track driver files or face the consequences

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Kevin James Hickson has built a career on delivering metal. It began with local deliveries and a pickup truck before a co-worker told him about the job opening for someone with a Class AZ licence. All it took was training at Algonquin College for an air brake endorsement, and a clean road test with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

That was more than 25 years ago — but the career path which followed has come to a screeching halt because of some missing paperwork.

Hickson’s manager at Russel Metals recently called him in to the office to explain that, when checking driver abstracts, it appeared the Class AMZ licence (including a motorcycle licence) had been downgraded. Three years ago. Not possible, Hickson replied. But they put the Ministry of Transportation on the speaker phone and the information was confirmed.

“We were just awestruck,” he says.

The issue all traces back to 2014, when he didn’t complete required medical paperwork. Something that he insists was a mere oversight. When the downgraded licence arrived, Hickson says he mistakenly believed it was just a replacement for the one that came before it. Each day, he just headed off to work and did his job.

The veteran driver’s first response after hearing the news was simply to retake the related tests. He’s fully confident in being able to secure a passing grade. The problem is that he can’t. The 25-plus years of experience don’t matter. Since he hasn’t had his AZ for three years, Hickson is now required to take Ontario’s new Mandatory Entry Level Training program. All 103.5 hours of it. As if he has never been behind the wheel.

Hickson actually supports the idea of entry-level training, and sees it as a tool to reduce the threat of collisions among new drivers. But he says he knows what he’s doing. Not only that, there would be the related expense of the training program. “It just seems so unfair,” he says. “I’m equivalent to a trainer or more.”

The unionized shop has put him on a night shift for now, picking and loading material for someone else to drive. But that isn’t going to last forever. A few weeks, tops.

“I am absolutely beside myself, trying to comprehend how this downgrade went unforeseen by myself, my place of employment – with regular abstract checks – and by an MTO agent during my application for a licence enhancement upgrade in May,” he says. “In the blink of an eye, I am potentially looking at losing everything.

“I have attained a new medical and passed the upgraded [written] test, and it has been submitted. I am absolutely at the mercy of MTO and government, which falls on deaf ears.”

It serves as a cautionary tale for others throughout the trucking industry. Driver files can appear like cumbersome documents, but the careful tracking of the expiry dates for licences and endorsements is vital to ensure that renewals happen on schedule. It can mean the difference between an uninterrupted career path and unemployment.

Trucks may roll on concrete, but an updated and accurate paper trail is what allows that to happen. Check the date on your licence to be safe.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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