Truck driver training institutions and the private fleet association have welcomed Ontario’s Class A manual transmission restriction that comes into effect on July 1.
From next month, candidates completing a Class A or Class A restricted (AR) road test in a vehicle with an automatic, semi-automatic, or automated manual transmission, cannot drive Class A/AR vehicles with a manual transmission.
They can only operate automatic, semi-automatic and automated manual transmission-equipped Class A/AR vehicles and the restriction will be noted on the driver’s record and driver’s licence.
This restriction does not apply to anyone who completed their Class A/AR road test before July 1.
Ken Adams, director of operations, Crossroads Truck & Career Academy in Ottawa supports the policy as he says it improves road safety. “Learning as you go along causes great danger on the road,” he said.
The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) said it supports the change and believes it “is a positive step toward improving road safety.”
PMTC says its research in 2021 indicated about 25% of new Class 8 sales were manual transmissions.
The association said operation of a Class 8 vehicle with a manual transmission is much more complex than operating a similar spec’d vehicle with an automatic transmission, and without proper training, an operator who obtained their licence without showing proficiency in manual operation, should not be legally allowed to operate that vehicle type.
Surinder Batth, director of Global Truck Academy, in Brampton, Ont., says students are inquiring about training on a manual transmission and he is planning to buy a truck with one. He says the availability of such equipment is a big challenge.
Batth says extra time is required to teach a student how to shift through a manual transmission. “If the transmission grinds during the road test, the student fails,” he said.
Adams, who is also the chairman of the board of the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario, says his school primarily trains students on manual transmissions. This takes time as you have to develop muscle memory to become proficient at the task.
He explains the process. “A truck does not shift like a car. You have to double-clutch it. When you are going up in gears, the only time you push your clutch right to the floor is on first gear, then it’s a half clutch – twice. When you are slowing down, it’s a half clutch into neutral, let out the clutch, then you push on the accelerator, bring your rpm up about 500, then half clutch again and put it into the lower gear,” Adams said.
Radek Rogowski, operations manager at Richards Driving School in Mississauga, Ont. says he supports the policy that raises the standard of commercial truck drivers.
His school operates two trucks with manual transmissions and two with automatic transmissions. He said demand is increasing for training on manual transmission equipment.
Rogowski says people getting into the industry would not want to have a licence that is restricted. The highest paying jobs in the industry are still predominantly those in the manual transmission category and nobody wants to compete for the lowest-paying jobs.
Students who know how to operate a manual transmission on a four-wheeler can enrol in the school’s manual transmission training program, “so we don’t have to teach them from zero,” Rogowski says.
Adams also had a word of warning. “When a person learns on an automatic transmission in Ontario and is told to take a manual transmission truck to B.C., they can’t shift that truck into a lower gear when they are going down a hill, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
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