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Ontario’s senior drivers still deserve better

Since OBAC is on “the list,” the month of December brings a plethora of greeting cards from politicians wishing me health, happiness, and a prosperous new year. It’s one of those things they do to make sure voters and...

Since OBAC is on “the list,” the month of December brings a plethora of greeting cards from politicians wishing me health, happiness, and a prosperous new year. It’s one of those things they do to make sure voters and stakeholders know they care. Right.

In addition to his Christmas card, I received an interesting letter from Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Bob Chiarelli, regarding senior commercial licence renewal in this province.

Minister Chiarelli agreed that the process “can be made less onerous for senior drivers without compromising safety” and is prepared to re-open discussions on the subject.

For folks outside Ontario who might not follow this issue as closely as we aging Ontario drivers, regulation 340/94, as it’s affectionately known, is one of the most blatant examples of age discrimination you’re ever likely to see in driver licensing.
The Highway Traffic Act, which sets out the types of examinations to determine a person’s fitness to drive, requires Class A commercial drivers aged 65 and older to complete an annual driving test with a tractor-trailer unit, in addition to the written test and a full medical examination.

Age, set arbitrarily at 65, is the only thing that triggers the road test, and Ontario is the sole jurisdiction in North America (and perhaps the world) with this requirement. Let me be clear – the medical isn’t a huge deal; after all, most of us at that age see our doctors on a regular basis anyway, and even the written test (flawed though it be) is something we can live with. But it’s the road test that’s the kicker.  

Not only is the road test the most costly and inconvenient element of re-testing, there is absolutely nothing in the test that would reveal shortcomings related to age, such as eroding cognitive skills, reaction time, decision-making capability, or physical dexterity. Such a test, in fact, like the fountain of youth, doesn’t exist.

So who do they think they’re kidding? To believe they’re weeding out old “unsafe” drivers by administering the current entry level, mark and measure, circle check, drive-around-the-block test is just plain silly. Until there is a road test developed that can measure the failing abilities associated with aging, the ministry needs to put a stop to this utterly useless and often humiliating practice of harassing some of Ontario’s most conscientious and safest drivers.  

As a result of concerted lobbying by trucking associations, carriers, and more than a few old geezers, the Ministry undertook a comprehensive policy review in 2008 of renewal requirements for senior commercial drivers, and I think the light came on for a few bureaucrats over there. Also, mandatory retirement at age 65 (for everyone) had recently been made illegal in Ontario, and there may have been a nagging feeling that truckers’ claims of discrimination weren’t that far off the mark.

In any case, they recommended changes that would end the practice of age-based testing, but for some perplexing reason, a succession of Ministers has refused to act.

Obviously, I’m pleased that Minister Chiarelli is prepared talk, but I gotta tell ya, he’ll have to come up with something a lot more meaningful than the “initiatives” he outlined in his letter to get this old girl excited.

To consider it worthy of mention that senior drivers pay a reduced road test fee ($14 vs. $75) only tells me that he’s just not listening. Time and again we’ve explained that Class A renewal can cost a driver upwards of $1,000 in truck procurement fees and lost earnings for the road test, so a savings of 60 bucks just isn’t going to do it.

As for being able to use a truck with an automatic transmission for the road test, that simply fixes a blunder made back in 2008 when they introduced the “restricted” Class A licence. The restriction was put in place to close the loophole that allowed one to get a Class A licence with a pick-up truck hauling a horse trailer, and it’s a good example of how we seniors tend to be invisible a lot of the time when rules are being made.

In defining the spec’s and configuration of a vehicle that could be used for the test, “manual transmission” was included as a requirement (not unreasonable for a first-time test candidate), but someone completely overlooked the fact that there could be a whole whack of old pros, who’ve been steering and gearing trucks for upwards of 40 years, showing up to take the test with their driver-friendly, state-of-the-art automated transmissions.

And I fail to see how drawing pictures of air brake adjustments and safety checks – the practical air brake test – is measuring the deficiencies related to aging. That’s what the medical exam by a qualified physician is all about. And anyway, a written air brake test is part of the renewal process that all drivers go through on a regular basis to maintain their Class A licence and air brake endorsement.

But while I’m a bit crotchety about the whole thing, I’ll give Minister Chiarelli the benefit of the doubt. His letter indicates a willingness to work toward an appropriate long-term solution, and he has tasked his Parliamentary Assistant, Vic Dhillon (MPP, Brampton West), to lead a review. We’ll be at the table, once again, gladly sharing our extensive body of research that points to much more effective and less onerous ways of determining fitness to drive – at any age.

Our message is clear. We have no problem supporting testing of class A licence holders on an as-required basis – regardless of age – as long as the trigger is linked to factors such as a driver’s safety record, the demerit point system, or medical-based criteria that suggests testing is warranted.

The number 65 as an arbitrary line between safe and not safe has got to go, and the sooner Minister Chiarelli and the other folks at Queen’s Park recognize this, the sooner we can get to work on initiatives that will make our highways – the workplace of commercial drivers – safer.  

And before I leave my soapbox, let me remind everyone out there that as the industrialized world ages, having more older Canadians in the workforce is key to this country’s future prosperity.

We’re so focused on developing strategies to get younger workers into the industry that we overlook the golden resource of seasoned veterans. Makes me mad.

For more information on OBAC’s policy regarding age-based driver testing, as well as other “grey matters,” check out the ‘Age Page’ on our Web site at
– Joanne Ritchie is executive director of OBAC. Are you aging or raging? E-mail her at or call toll free 888-794-9990.

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3 Comments » for Ontario’s senior drivers still deserve better
  1. wayne g smith says:

    the process of tying to renew an az license at age of 65 when you are a seasonal driver is almost impossible I had to take truck driver training in london which is 3 hours from my home and the road test which they failed me so had to drive to london for more training then drive to london again for the test all this I did in febuary just to get a truck to do my test never had a accident in 40 years or a ticket excellent cvor and to top it all off I still do not have my lic. they lost it I had to renew my temp lic. all this has cost me 1200.00 dollars plus 2 days off work to renew the temp

  2. Brian William May says:

    Here’s a better one for you. In September I was hauling a load of product to Calgary, Alberta. While approaching the town of kenora I started experiencing power loss to my Freightliner. I notified the owner of my tractor who advised me to try and get it through to Calgary and have New West Freightliner repair it there. As I came over the hill in bull low gear approaching the Kenora town exit, an O.P.P. cruiser was parked across the intersection at the bottom of the hill , as I passed him still in low gear with my jake brakes on a applied foot pressure to my brake pedal. he pulled out behind me, tailgating me for almost 2 miles then pulls me over. Says he clocked me at 108km per hr and was reducing it to 106kms per hr. I asked him how he did that as my tractor is governed by law at 103 kms per hr which means it can not go over 103 kms per hr. he said by radar, so I said prove it, he said he doesn’t have TO AND WHY AM I SO UPSET, IT’S ONLY a $55.00 ticket and you aren’t getting any demerit points. He also stated he noticed I couldn’t climb the hill without difficulty and power loss to my tractor and could not attain the 90km speed limit. Maximum speed I could attain was 80kms after two kms of travel on a level road.I got to Calgary ok. My boss ended of sying unexpectedly and I had to fly home two weeks later, the truck is still in Calgary as of jan.2016. As I have no way of going back to Kenora to fight the ticket, I paid it as I was told I would not receive any demerit points on my drivers class AZ License. Next thing I get a letter from Judy Taggart of the D.O.T. stating that I earned 3 demerit points and because I am in between the ages of 65 and 79 years of age, I must rewrite my class AZ driver’s license and also do a class AZ drivers road test in a class AZ vehicle combination or have my license reduced to class G and all because of my age! I have filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights tribunal whom have launched a major investigation into this as this nonsense has directly violated my rights both under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and also the Ontario Human Rights Code which both stipulate very clearly that my age can not be used against me. The Ontario D.O.To. Highway traffic Act is in direct violation of the both these Acts and I highly advise any driver whom experiences such discrimination do to his age, follow through just as I have. Once the Ontario Human Rights tribunal has finished dealing with this unfair treatment to myself, I intend to launch a class action law suit against the province of Ontario and the O.P.P. and The Ontario Highway Traffic Act and D.O.T..Anyone whom wants to add their name and be part of a class action law suit against the parties I mentioned for the same reasons, may contact me, outlining their position and reason. at

  3. Brian William May says:

    You have permission to publish my E mail address in advent other senior class AZ or DZ Professional Commercial drivers wish to contact me concerning my letter. Incidently, I have had and maintained a spotless commercial class AZ driving record for well over 40 years, I have NEVER RECIEVED A FINE OR WARNING EVER ON ANY HIGHWAY GOVERNMENT SCALES IN CANADA OR THE U.S.A., NEVER BEEN CONVIXTED OF ANY ACCIDENTS IN A VEHICLE OF ANY CLASS AND NO OTHER SPEEDING TICKETS OR DEMERIT POINTS EVER IN A COMMERCIAL CLASS AZ OR DZ VEHICLE. My medical has always been perfect, yet the Ontario Government see fits to violate my rights as a Canadian Citizen and Commercial Driver whom is highly skilled in all area’s of commercial driving also being a heavy haul specialist ! And they call this justice !

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