Our recent coverage of the discriminatory road test requirement for all senior A/Z licence holders in Ontario has created quite the stir. My phone’s been ringing off the hook from drivers wanting to know what can be done. The requirement is not new – it’s been a thorn in the side of senior drivers for years.
What is new, however, is that there are now equipment stipulations that require road tests to be completed using a manual transmission and minimum 45-ft. trailer (amont other things). Believe it or not, there are a ton of senior drivers using automated transmissions – not because they can’t shift gears, but because they felt it was a safer and more efficient spec’.
Many of these drivers have accumulated millions of miles of safe driving, some dating back to when two-stick transmissions were the norm. The new requirements were intended to prevent unskilled entry-level drivers from obtaining an A/Z licence without the skills required to operate a typical tractor-trailer, but they’ve had the unintended consequence of chasing some of this industry’s greatest assets out of the industry.
Times are tough, and the costly burden of renting a truck with a manual transmission for a road test is too much for some to bear. So they’re begrudgingly calling it quits – and the entire industry, in fact all road users, are losing out.
Many callers have asked me ‘What can we do?’ I’m normally not a fan of online petitions or letter writing campaigns, but now that both OBAC and the OTA are on-board (and the PMTC has also lobbied against the current requirements), there’s reason to believe something can be accomplished here.
There’s a precedent for this. Remember the Lunchbag Letdown Campaign in 2007? The CTA, OBAC and the Teamsters set aside their political differences and urged truckers to fill in a postcard and send it to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, requesting that the meal tax deduction limit be increased from 50% to 80%. And it worked. More than 4,000 drivers sent in their postcards and it created an impression. The March 07 budget included a clause that would restore the meal tax deduction limit to 80% by 2011.
Hopefully, the fact that the vast majority of owner/operators, drivers and carriers are in agreement the system needs to be revamped will help nudge the province into action. The OTA has set up a Web site dedicated to the cause. You can see it here.
Included is their suggested fix. To summarize: A driver would be required to prove medical fitness every year after reaching the age of 65; the renewal period for a CDL upon reaching the age of 65 should be two years until the driver reaches the age of 71, and annually thereafter; and the driver would be required to pass the normal written test and written air brake examination, but would only be required to take a road test and practical air brake examination if they have more than: five demerit points, one preventable accident and/or one out-of-service violation.
Does it go far enough? Bearing in mind the province is more likely to tweak the rules than rewrite them altogether, I think it strikes a pretty good balance. Most drivers I’ve heard from are alright with the yearly medicals and they’re also okay with road tests for drivers that have anything less than a stellar driving record. The OTA’s suggestion would alleviate most senior drivers from the costly and onerous annual road tests while maintaining a strong emphasis on road safety.
If you feel the mandatory road test requirement for senior drivers is discriminatory, then have your say. I’ve practiced what I preach, and fired off a variation of the OTA letter as well as the recent Truck News coverage to my local MPP, Transport Minister Jim Bradley and Conservative Transport critic Frank Klees. It’s worth a shot.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies