Ontario’s mandatory yearly re-testing policy for A/Z drivers 65 years of age and older is one of the most asinine rules on the books. It punishes some of the industry’s most experienced and safest drivers for turning 65 and unfortunately it squeezes many of the best drivers from the industry. I routinely hear from able-bodied and able-minded senior drivers who have decided to hang up the keys solely because of this ridiculous policy, which exists only in Ontario.
The following, well-documented case from one such driver is sadly a common occurrence in Ontario:
John Dundass, a driver for Arnold Transport whose boss says “does a bang-up job,” recently turned 65 years of age. After navigating through a “maze” of computer and phone answering systems, he finally reached a human and was told he’d have to visit DriveTest to complete three separate tests. The first was a written test; the second was a road test and air brake test for which he’d need to provide a tractor-trailer; and the third was for a written and road test for buses (if he wished to maintain his B licence).
During his first visit on Apr. 15, John voluntary surrendered his bus licence to save himself having to rent a school bus for the road test. He says he was told by the attendant that by giving up his B licence for buses, he could renew his A licence without a road test. He found that claim suspicious, and asked for it in writing.
After passing the written truck and air brake tests, John made his way to the licensing office in Burlington. He filled out and paid for the necessary forms and went on his way. A few weeks later, he received a phone message telling him he needed to book an appointment for a road test.
He waded his way back through the “phone machine maze” and spent quite some time trying to get a human on the line. Finally, he was able to book an appointment for a road test. Arnold Bros. provided him with a tractor-trailer, including the tractor John normally operates.
He showed up for his road test June 26, did the air brake portion of the practical test and then the examiner told him the 07 “state-of-the-art” highway tractor was not adequate for the road test, as it had an automated transmission. John says he was sent home again.
Arnold Bros. agreed to provide him with a truck with an “old school transmission” and John returned to the DriveTest center once again to perform his road test. By now it was early July, he says. “This whole deal was getting stressful. Many drivers would give up by this point,” he wrote.
After 14 phone calls, John finally got through to a voice-mail system and left a message saying he wanted to book a road test. The voice-mail belonged to a supervisor named Steve, who returned his call and set up an appointment for a road test.
On July 11, John showed up for his road test with a highway tractor with manual transmission. He was forced to once again complete the practical air brake test. He passed it again, and passed his road test as well. By now, it had been a four month process.
“No commercial driver should be subjected to such a ridiculous procedure, taking days off the job,” he wrote. “Many drivers give up. Is that what the Minister wants?”
He adds that ironically, he was never asked to complete a doctor’s medical!
This type of incident is not completely isolated. I hear from many drivers who have undergone similar insulting and degrading experiences. And for what? Because they’ve turned 65 years of age. Sixty-five isn’t all that old anymore and I’d gladly ride alongside a veteran driver with decades of experience than a neophyte.
The good news is that lobbying by the OTA, PMTC and OBAC seems to finally be garnering the attention of decision-makers at Queen’s Park. There have been some encouraging signs lately, with the Ontario Transport Department promising to at least revisit its re-resting requirements for senior drivers. A change can’t come soon enough.
John, and many other professional drivers like him, have been discriminated against due to their age. In an industry that claims to be starved for qualified drivers, does it make sense to be turning away some of the best we’ve got? Kudos to John for sticking with it through the entire ordeal. Shame on Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation for continuing to enforce this nonsensical law.
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 email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies