TORONTO, Ont. — The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) says the province’s recent announcement that senior drivers will be allowed to use trucks equipped with automatic transmissions when taking their annual road tests does not go far enough.
The association welcomed the change, but said it should not be the final word on the issue of mandatory annual road tests for drivers over the age of 65. Nor should the automat transmission allowance be extended only to senior drivers, the OTA charges.
“There is a growing recognition that automatics are becoming increasingly popular in the industry and if and as they continue to do so, the requirement that other drivers be tested only on manual transmissions will need to be reviewed,” said OTA president, David Bradley.
In a recent OTA member survey, 62% of fleets said they felt manual transmissions should not be required for new Class A driver road tests. Seventy-one per cent of respondents said they have automatic transmissions in their fleet for reasons such as fuel economy (64%), older drivers (19%), new drivers (30%) and non-traditional drivers (30%).
The OTA has argued drivers should be tested on the type of equipment they’ll be operating on the job.
“What (fleets) told is If they are going to drive an automatic, then let them be tested on a tractor with an automatic transmission,” said Bradley. “Some carriers said that the type of transmission has nothing to do with a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle.”
Eighty-nine per cent of fleets surveyed said that they’ve never had a driver who has only driven a tractor with an automated transmission express an interest in driving a manual truck. For those that do wish to make the switch, the OTA said carriers provide their own training.
“We recognize that the manual transmission is currently the dominant system; carriers told us they still want to be sure that drivers can switch easily between the two types of transmissions. Most training is still occurring on trucks equipped with manual transmissions,” Bradley said.
“So, while there is still somewhat of a divided opinion on whether Class A licence candidates should be able to choose between being tested on an automatic or manual transmission vehicle today, the vast majority felt that the situation in the marketplace is changing rapidly and that as automatics become increasingly prevalent this issue should be revisited, perhaps in a couple of years’ time,” he added.
The OTA, in the meantime, is still hoping the province adopts its recommendation for senior driver testing, which would subject only drivers with a blemished safety record to take the road test each year.
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