Ontario’s restricted Class A licence to come into effect July 1

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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.

Picture of trucker shifting gears
(Photo: iStock)

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.

Ken Adams
Ken Adams, director of operations at Crossroads Truck & Career Academy. (File photo: Supplied)

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.

Picture of Surinder Batth
Surinder Batth, director of Global Truck Academy. (Photo: Leo Barros)

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.

MELT training at Richards Driving School
Radek Rogowski, operations manager at Richards Driving School, left. (File photo: Leo Barros)

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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Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca

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  • So you got your license on an automatic before July 1st you can drive a standard truck. But after you cannot. Where does this make sense? Typical politicians making rules and knowing nothing

  • The limited training provided in any school will not prepare you to run mountains in any truck, especially a manual. The training is nothing more than a tool to pass the test. It does not prepare anyone to run an 800000 lb weapon on our highways alone. Carriers must uptrain new hires, and guess what, most just toss them the keys. The private schools should be scrapoed. Driver training should be a full two semesters at a college.

  • I do not feel any truck driver should be taught on automatic transmission, they all should learn on manual

  • Can drive a synchronized transmission like a pro but never quite got the hang of a crash box transmission. I can drive one, just not to the required standard every time. Even during my schooling in the same lesson, I could drive one like I wrote the book and then “lose it” and you would think I was never introduced to the truck transmission. I could downshift like a perfectly for some reason, no trouble there. Used to drive my instructors nuts as to why. I knew how it worked, how to shift and when but at times not put it into practice each time,
    My carrier’s fleet is all automated now but it wasn’t when I started but wasn’t able to get more “stick time” for practice.
    If you can’t properly use the equipment, I don’t think you should be driving it.

  • As a trainer, I like the idea however there still seems to be some unanswered questions. Like, if a company has manual shift, fifth wheel equipped truck that don’t meet the drivetest criteria. That is trucks with 6 and 7 speeds, synchronous transmissions that shift like a car. Will they still need an unrestricted manual shift licence to drive them?

  • removing the automatic restriction doing road test with manual do you have to do complete test incab air backing etc or is it just bob tail to show examiner you can shift thanks