Unanimity is hard to come by in the trucking industry. You'll be hard-pressed to find any one issue on which truckers and other industry stakeholders will all be in agreement.The exception to this rul...
Unanimity is hard to come by in the trucking industry. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any one issue on which truckers and other industry stakeholders will all be in agreement.The exception to this rule, however, may be Ontario’s requirement that senior drivers take an annual road test to maintain their A/Z licence every year beyond the age of 65. It’s onerous and worse, it’s discriminatory towards some of the finest and most experienced drivers this industry has to offer.
Each year, many of these drivers hang up their keys in frustration because it’s not worth the hassle of going through this procedure year in and year out.
Much has been written on this subject and yet still the Ontario Ministry of Transportation sticks to its guns. Even the OTA, which so successfully guided its controversial speed limiter law through to fruition, has been unable to get the province to budge on this issue.
Amazingly, the situation has recently gotten even worse for senior drivers.
Earlier this year, Ontario introduced a “restricted” version of a Class A/Z licence to close the loophole that allowed drivers to acquire a commercial driver’s licence using a pick-up truck and horse trailer. The province brought in new requirements for road tests, which require trucks to have a manual transmission and fifth wheel, among other things.
While the change was much needed to prevent underqualified drivers from obtaining A/Z licences, it has had the unintended consequence of placing further strain on senior drivers.
Take for instance the case of Harold Johnson, who you can read about in this month’s cover story. He has several million miles under his belt, most of them accumulated while driving tractor-trailers with manual transmissions. However, having heard the new automated transmissions are safer and easier to use, he figured he’d done enough gear jamming in his day and his two current trucks are both equipped with auto gearboxes.
Now, however, he’s being given the rigmarole by DriveTest, the third-party agency that conducts Ontario road tests. To rent a truck with a manual transmission for a day or licence an older truck he still owns, he’s looking at a cost of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Business is slow – he says he just may park’em both.
Then there are guys like Brian Willoughby, who owns a dump truck with pup and pintle hook connection – no fifth wheel. He says he’s been turned away by DriveTest, or told he’d have to downgrade to a restricted A/Z licence.
I took my own road test with this very configuration, and found it more challenging to back up than a traditional tractor-trailer. To downgrade the licence of this accident-free, three million miler is a slap in the face.
The MTO should be commended for listening to the industry and making it tougher for new drivers to obtain an A/Z licence without the proper qualifications. However, as is often the case, the new requirements have had unintended consequences and placed an even greater burden on senior drivers, who are this industry’s greatest assets.
It’s time the province gets serious about removing the annual mandatory road test requirement for senior A/Z licence-holders. I think that’s something the entire industry can agree on.
– James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at email@example.com.