Ontario jeopardizes road safety by delaying A/Z licence restriction

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The province of Ontario is currently the only jurisdiction in all of Canada and the U.S. that allows someone to take their Class A road test in an automatic or automated manual transmission, and if passed, provide them with a fully unrestricted licence.

This allows them to drive a standard truck, with possibly as many as 18 forward gears, with absolutely zero experience with that type of equipment. Every other jurisdiction either requires you to take your road test in a manual or places a restriction on your licence allowing you to operate an auto-shift only if you choose to take your test using one. Ontario’s policy, in our view, is a serious road safety issue that needs to be addressed now.

As far back as 2015, when industry began consultations with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation on mandatory entry-level training (MELT), this issue was raised by many stakeholders, with some suggesting mandatory training on a manual be included in MELT.

At the time it was left out, with a commitment from the MTO to address the auto road test issue in the future. When MELT was introduced in 2017, the road test issue had yet to be addressed, elevating concerns by many in the industry.

After several years of consultation and lobbying, the MTO issued a regulatory posting on Nov. 17 2020, announcing its intent to place a restriction on a Class A licence if the road test was conducted in an automatic transmission.

In a letter from the MTO on April 18, industry was notified that the manual restriction would come into effect May 17. The effective date was later moved to July 19 to ensure industry had enough time to transition. A stakeholder meeting was called by the MTO on Friday July 16, with less than 1.5 hours’ notice.

automated transmission shifter

At the meeting, the MTO announced, with no previous consultation or notice, that the regulation, scheduled to take effect in two days, was being delayed by possibly as long as a year, to allow industry time to transition. The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada and Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario are vehemently opposed to this change, and feel it flies in the face of road safety. There is a reason no other jurisdiction allows this.

With talk of this regulation being discussed as far back as 2015 in MELT consultations, and posted in the registry in November 2020, training institutions had enough time to address operational issues. Keep in mind, this regulation change was for road tests only, and made zero changes to training requirements.

If someone still wished to do all of their training on an automatic and take their road test on an automatic, they still could. They would be given a restricted Class A licence, allowing them to operate a Class A vehicle with an auto-shift only.

Class A commercial motor vehicles can weigh as much as 63,500 kg, and require the use of the transmission gears to help brake the vehicle, especially on long downhill grades, so that brakes will not overheat. If a driver ends up in neutral as a result of not being able to find a gear, the truck can become out of control with the reduced braking ability.

Manual transmissions are much harder to operate than an auto-shift and require training and experience to master. Can anyone legitimately argue that we should allow someone with no training in a manual transmission to be given a full unrestricted licence?

Why should anyone be given a licence for a piece of equipment they have not been trained or evaluated on? This policy, which Ontario introduced for senior drivers in 2009, and all other drivers in 2012, needs to be addressed now. We can not allow another 12-month delay that allows this unsafe practice to continue. Our organizations are requesting the regulatory change, that was to become effective July 19, becomes effective in very short order.

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Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada. He can be reached at trucks@pmtc.ca.

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  • Mr Mike millan your were the first one who opposed Mannual Transmission 2015 when melt was interdoucing..and what about on ?.why pmtc jeopardizes public safety to delaying eld…

    Mr so called safety men ..be fair everywhere

  • I don’t know why the hell we are even discussing this. It makes NO sense to put a driver trained on an automatic transmission behind the wheel of a truck…or even a car! I can hear the grinding from here. I can also hear, “what’s a clutch?”

  • I was classed as marginal on a manual transmission. Not because I was incompetent on a manual, just a non-synchronized one.
    There was times I could shift like I wrote the book and during the same lesson just lose the rhythm.
    I took the test on an automated because I had a job waiting for me and their fleet was automated. I could not take a chance and lose my “mojo” halfway through a test.
    I don’t think I’m a bad driver, just lousy on the manual. I even paid extra for additional time and instruction.
    Would I drive a manual on the road? No, not without more time. I would like to learn but my current carrier’s fleet is also automated except for the yard truck. Yes, I have driven it but not on the roadway as it’s not fit for the road.
    Common sense would dictate you don’t operate something you can’t. A pilot of a Cessna can’t fly a 747 but is still a pilot.

  • “Ontario jeopardizes road safety by delaying A/Z licence restriction”.
    That’s a pretty bold statement. Sensational too.
    Your article is rife with innuendo, and full of what-if’s, and could-be’s. Where’s your proof? Where are your studies and statics that prove this is the case? Where is your evidence? You have provided no facts, only assumptions and guesses.
    Now, I have no issue with your assumptions and guesses. For all we know you could be right, and I would tend to lean that way myself.
    What I do take issue with is your choice of headline. Since when did Today’s Trucking resort to sensationalizing its headlines? Is Today’s Trucking gunning to be the Fox News of transportation publications?
    How about we just go back to the old days when Today’s Trucking just printed the unbiased facts?

  • I am retired after spending thirty eight years driving as an Owner Operator and as a Company
    Driver. Drivers in the 60’s through to the early 2000’s were of a different Breed from today’s Class of Big Rig Driver’s. Back on 1971 I went out a purchased a Used Truck and went to work. The only requirement was that I possessed a then called Chauffeur’s Licence. There were No Automatic Transmissions back then. I learnt on a 1965 White with a 220 Cummins with a 4X4 Spicer Two Stick Transmission. Then I purchased New 1973 White Western Star with a 290NTC backed by a Fuller 13 Speed. In those days 500-600HP was not even an option. Today’s young Driver’s with all this Power can be dangerous if not treated with respect. Lots of Danger is on the Horizon with Poorly Trained Drivers. The Professional Driver who takes this Career Seriously is slipping away mainly because of Poor Wages for the long hours and Sacrifice of Home Time. The Cowboy Jockey is surfacing. Today, with the Driver Shortage these New Restrictions are only going to add to this problem. Why would anyone really want an Automatic Transmission is beyond Me. The only reason, to Me, is lack of Experience and Competence to be able to Drive any Truck. All Manual Transmissions are of the H Pattern in which are included the 9, 10, 13, 15 and 18 Speed.
    Lack of Proper Training. I point the finger at today’s so called Driving Schools and the Instructors lack of Over The Road Experience. Good Well Staffed School Facilities are far and few these days.
    I believe a good portion of all these recent Roll Overs occur as a result of Poor Training and because of Automatic Transmissions to a large degree. Not having to think ahead to Gearing Down when approaching an Off Ramp concerning. Taking these Ramps Too Fast is the cause of Roll Overs. Also, gearing down maintains Cooler Brakes.
    It’s My personal opinion, the Automatic Transmission is the root of today’s problems with Roll Overs and is producing a different Breed of Truck Driver. The Industry is as a result of Lesser Qualified Driver’s taking a hit which will only get worse. Training Instructors with No or little Over The Road Experience is a No No. That should be a Prerequisite ad well as D. O. T. Testers many of whom are questionable in as far as Practical Knowledge.
    Me, I wouldn’t even consider an Automatic. They are to become a continuing problem in the
    Trucking Industry and Automatic Transmissions will and are playing a Critical Roll. If not taken into hand by Professionals and not by Illiterate Politicians with No Clue or Experience in this Industry. I feel I can speak from experience having accumulated over 5 Million Miles or 8 Million Km’s.

    Bruce Doyle

    • You are right on Bruce. The Schools are cutting rates to induce students to go to there schools in the GTA. And the crazy thing is the schools are saying that they can train students on standard trucks as well as the Melt program. Absolutely ridiculous. Like you i was trained and have driven standards for my career and as a driver trainer. If anyone thinks because they can drive a standard car or small standard truck, they are in for a big shock. And the schools will just keep racking in the money. All the best, Tom.

  • Mr Milliam,
    I would like for you to write an investigated report on why and how new Canadian are causing so many accidents in North East Ontario. OPP charged a new Canadian driver for careless and dangerous driving which about eight vehicles were involved. It’s time to crack down on drivers being so aggressive and wreaking havoc on our roads.