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Older AZ drivers want more respect for skills from Ont.

PEMBROKE, Ont. - Some frustrated truck drivers in this province who have passed the 65-year age mark are giving up and voluntarily downgrading their licences to get around the "hassle" rather than ris...

KEEP ON TRUCKING: Eric Shone, 69, says downgrading his licence helped him keep "working at his favorite business" without having to worry about big-truck regulations.
KEEP ON TRUCKING: Eric Shone, 69, says downgrading his licence helped him keep "working at his favorite business" without having to worry about big-truck regulations.

PEMBROKE, Ont. – Some frustrated truck drivers in this province who have passed the 65-year age mark are giving up and voluntarily downgrading their licences to get around the “hassle” rather than risk losing it altogether under a 26-year-old policy of mandatory annual testing they feel is discriminatory, but at least one is fighting back.

Don Wilson, 68, feels Ontario’s policy requiring AZ-licensed drivers to do annual written and road tests once they turn 65 discriminates against older truck drivers by treating them like new drivers instead of respecting the decades of experience and skills behind the wheel that they have. Wilson has driven a truck since he was 14 and has been an owner/operator, a driver and a driver trainer over the decades.

“To say that my skills in one year or even two years have dropped enough that I shouldn’t be driving a truck, then I shouldn’t be driving a car, either,” he argues.

“Have I become senile since I turned 65 and forgotten everything I’ve been doing for 45 years?” questions George Haywood of Brighton, Ont. “You should be able to keep doing it until a doctor thinks you’re not capable.”

Haywood, 71, is still driving, doing Toronto-Montreal overnight runs for a company that was short on drivers. He has been driving a truck since he was 16 and plans to keep driving “as long as possible.” At press time, he was driving on a temporary licence and was scheduled for a Jan. 28 road test that had been postponed because of a mechanical problem.

Haywood, “a little nauseated” by Ontario’s policy that he also feels is discriminatory, is collecting signatures on a petition against the policy. He’s gathering names “wherever I pull in.”

So far, Haywood has collected about 60 names, he says. He is planning on taking the petition to local MPPs and MPs in eastern Ontario, and also hopes to raise a champion in the industry.

“We need industry companies to support it. We should have the trucking association behind it, too,” Haywood says.

He says the industry is losing many senior drivers when they’re needed to fill gaps for companies in need of drivers, thereby perpetuating the driver shortage.

But Wilson says he finally voluntarily downgraded his licence to D last November out of sheer frustration with Ontario’s policy, “just to get away from the driving test” and end the “hassle.”

“If I lose my A, I’ve lost everything. But I can go in and say I don’t need my A anymore, and I can sign a piece of paper saying I want to downgrade to a D. And hold a D licence for the next five years and not be tested at all.”

And that’s what has Haywood angry. He feels the retesting policy would be more fair if it were applied equally across all commercial licence classes.

Eric Shone, 69, says he agrees with Wilson’s frustration, but he planned 30 years ago to switch to smaller trucks, knowing that he couldn’t fight government regulations once he turned 65.

“I could see the writing on the wall…I thought about it a long time ago, about making a solution so that I could keep in trucking, and it had seemed to be the only way to get around this was to go to smaller trucks.”

Shone, a former gravel hauler with more than five decades of experience behind the wheel, now runs his own oil-delivery business in Markham, Ont.,with a customized one-ton oil truck.

He also hauls gravel loads with a customized three-ton dump truck.

Shone downgraded his licence the day he became 65 “and then my health didn’t matter anymore.” He has high blood pressure. “I’m still able to work at my favorite business without having to worry about all the regulations that apply to big trucks,” he says.

He believes many truck drivers suddenly find themselves up against the wall when they turn 65, because like people in other professions, they don’t think ahead to retirement. “They vaguely talk about something that’s in the future, but when it’s not imminent, they don’t really focus on it.”

Last September, Wilson wrote to Ontario Transportation Minister Norm Sterling about the province’s policy, and didn’t like the answers he received in Sterling’s reply.

“A medical examination is an excellent way to assess the health of an individual. Driver testing is also a valuable tool as it may disclose problems in driving skills that are not revealed through a medical examination,” Sterling wrote in a letter of reply to Wilson.

“In one word, safety,” is the reason why Ontario enforces mandatory annual testing of AZ drivers once they turn 65, explains Bob Nichols, spokesperson for the MTO.

“We’ve seen studies from the Canadian Medical Association that have shown that driving skills tend to deteriorate with age. And it’s been our experience at the ministry that as one gets older, eyesight and physical dexterity are lessened, and it can take longer to respond to potential traffic situations.”

The mandatory annual testing, which has been around since 1977 when Ontario changed its driver licensing system, has “absolutely” helped make Ontario highways the safest in the country, Nichols says.

But when they started phoning other provincial transportation ministries and asking about their requirements for AZ licence renewal at age 65, Wilson and his wife Heather discovered that other provinces don’t have the same stringent requirements.

“It certainly made us feel discriminated against. It’s discriminatory; it’s age profiling,” says Heather Wilson, who says she spent an afternoon working the telephone calling all provinces except Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to ask about their requirements for retaining an AZ licence at age 65.

Haywood and Wilson both say they agree with Ontario’s annual requirement for a medical exam and a vision test, but Haywood says Ontario’s policy disregards a driver’s abstract. “The abstract doesn’t mean a damn thing to the government but companies still want to see your abstract and the number of charges against you,” he says.

Like Ontario, other provinces are coming into line with a national standard on annual medical testing endorsed by the Ottawa-based Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA). The CCMTA, made up of member provincial and federal governments, co-ordinates all areas related to administration, regulation and control of transportation and highway safety.

But there’s no national standard for AZ licence retesting, because each province has its own policy.

Wilf MacDonald, highway safety co-ordinator with the PEI Department of Transportation and Public Works, says his province would only test an older AZ driver if there was something in the driver’s record or a police request that raised a flag and warranted a test, on a case-by-case basis.

“The issue we’ve looked at is that 65 may have been a good number 20 years ago, but people are living to 80-plus now. People’s lifespan has changed, and I think people look after themselves better than they used to,” he says.

“As long as the medical requirements are met on a yearly basis, you’re good to go,” says Don Wilson, driver programs administrator – driver safety programs, at Alberta Transportation. “Most companies do ongoing evaluations of their drivers so it’s almost a double hit (to be tested by the province as well).”

And a Saskatchewan Government Insurance representative told Truck News that testing is “not the norm” and wouldn’t be done “unless there’s reasons.”

But Nichols of the MTO, points out that Ontario isn’t alone in its retesting of older AZ drivers. “Nova Scotia requires the holder of a commercial driver’s licence to file an annual medical report and complete a retest to class starting at age 60, and Quebec has similar requirements.”

Wilson says part of the problem for older AZ-licensed drivers in Ontario once they reach mandatory annual testing age is that they can be passed or failed at the discretion of a much younger tester who may not really know about trucks. He says he failed the first time when he turned 65 but went back to retest “because I’m stubborn.”

“You’re sitting there with this guy who’s two-thirds your age. You definitely don’t want to make a mistake, because you’re s
upposed to be the pro. But all you do, the harder you try, the more the chances are that you’ll make that mistake and all you have to do is make four of them.”

Wilson says Ontario’s policy means AZ drivers with decades of experience can have their livelihoods and entire lives turned upside down at 65 if they fail the test. He says many older drivers who have been on the road for years become intimidated by the very thought of being tested, fail, and then never retry for their licence. Consequently, they’ve lost everything.

“When you drive a truck, you don’t have hobbies, you don’t play golf, you don’t play baseball, you don’t watch hockey games because you’re on the road all the time…I know guys who walk around not knowing what to do with themselves. They could be driving for companies that need drivers for a day, but because they can’t keep their licence, that’s it for them.”

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6 Comments » for Older AZ drivers want more respect for skills from Ont.
  1. Edmund Rockburne says:

    Drivers can have medical, eye problems and any number of afflictions at any age. To single out people based solely on their age can only be described in one way, discrimination.
    The Ministry does not have the statistical Justification for this, and they have stolen the Human Rights of the Elderly. Unfortunately, if the
    elderly are not to become regular victims of the Government, or anyone else, this Transgression of Human Rights, must be taken to Court, where it suffer a quick defeat, because there is no defence.

  2. jason says:

    its not just that its drivers over 45 also have to do medicals too.To stay a truck driver you have to pay the 75 for medical and the 80 for a A Z LICENSE .The government likes their money so to keep a good job that is losing drivers you pay for it.

  3. jason paroian says:

    i am 48 getting tired of writing might drop mine too .Ontario needs drivers but the government keep making it harder for people like you said that have been driving for a long time.Every time the cost of things go up because they need money.The way they said they need drivers but it harder now that people have familys and don t want to be on the road that long away from there wifes and kids

  4. I am 50 years old and I am pissed off! I have held a ACMZ – DL since I was 20 years old. I drove a logging truck in the mountains of BC Canada for 15 years. Then I started delivering Fuel for Petro Canada, also in BC and drove for 5 more years in that roll. I never once had to go and write another test when I held my BC class 16 restriction 15 (ACMZ equivalent). I moved to Ontario in 2000 and started driving a super B train for Provmar, a fuel delivery trucking company in the GTA. Provmar serviced 450 Esso gas stations in the Toronto and North area. I use to deliver 1.2 Million liters of Gas each week for them… In the past 16 years that I have been in Ontario the MOT has insisted that I rewrite my ACMZ twice. I understand having to provide them with a physical exam. I feel very insulted that I have to rewrite a 100 question writen test, not to mention the sign test.. I have a good driving record with no tickets or accidents. This is so ridicules, the province “needs” professional drivers, but they make it so difficult to keep mine. I stopped driving truck years ago and now own my own business, but I still want to keep my ACMZ, why would I simply let them downgrade it?? The way they informed me was on Feb 4 2016 they sent a letter threatening to downgrade my DL unless I show up with a up to date physical exam and ready to be retested before Mar 1 2016. less then 30 days notice. Here is a thought, what if I would have been on the road in a truck down in some god forsaken state in the USA or Mexico when they sent that letter. Perhaps I had been on the road for weeks and missed the letter trying to make a living. They would have simply downgraded my DL without me even knowing. How do you think that would worked out for me with a county mounty and or a judge?? This province need to get their heads out of their asses… Dose anyone have Justin Trudeau phone number?? I am pissed off! All of the drivers in this province should stand together to let the government of Ontario know how we feel about the total lack of respect pro drivers receive.. Go ahead ONTARIO take all the AZ licenses away, lets see how long the province lasts without any freight moving!!!!!

    • Gerald McCauley says:

      Hi I think you have the right Idea, I had an AZ but due to one Seizure it was gone, To get it back I have to be Seizure free for Five years…
      I am 55 now and stuck with a Class G, And Because of my Seizure I get ECG, and MRI one every year, sense August 2002, But MTO says no

      But that isn’t what your talking about, A few years back the Trucks From Coast to Coast Stopped Driving Due the the High cost of Fuel, it didn’t matter they Stopped Boarder Crossing Closed Everything, to get the Government to listen,

      If I was driving I would do this very thing, even to drive some Rigs to Queens Park as well as to Ottawa and let the horns sound every Five minutes, Start with one truck at each end of the group, they stop and the next Two Truck hit there horns, Just think of how loud that would be Two Trucks at a time By the time a half hour has past all the Trucks would be Blasting there Horns all Around Ontario, You Should send a letter to the Teamster Union and Get them on board as well, If you have the Union behind you the Government is going to know that this is a matter that isn’t going away…. They will try to do a back to work order, but How are they going to make thousands of truckers move. If they say you will go to jail, that means that the Truckers Will not be working, no goods moving….

      So If you were to Close all the main Roads and Rails going in and out of all the Big Cities Like Toronto Ottawa Sudbury Thunder Bay Barrie Dryden Kingston Brockville To name a few Cities, You want all the Boarders Closed in Ontario, nothing comes in Nothing goes out…

      Then See how long it takes the Government to answer, But From past dealing with the government, there word means very little, you need it in writing and a date when it will change… cause the trucks will not move…

    • Jack says:

      Government good at screwing up people’s life to benefit only themselves not a working person

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