Schools call for delay in Ontario licence endorsement

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A group that says it represents 30 truck training schools is pushing against Ontario’s timeline to introduce a licence restriction for drivers who take road tests using automated or automatic transmissions.

Under the plans, those who test for a new Class A licence using such a transmission will have a “REST/COND G” symbol on their licence, and be restricted from operating trucks with manual transmissions.

(File photo: Paccar)

The policy will bring Ontario in line with all other Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions, but won’t affect drivers who were licensed before the change was made.

The Ontario Commercial Truck Training Association has formally asked the government to reconsider the July 19 deadline, giving schools a chance to accommodate the shift. Most of the operations are run with two to three trucks.

“This date was changed from the originally planned implementation date of May 17, 2021, in order to ensure that all are ready to transition to manual training if they so choose, and to adequately prepare students,” an Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesman told Today’s Trucking.

“We have no problem with the policy. We’re not against the policy,” insists association president Narinderpal Jaswal of A2Z Driving School in Kitchener. “The time they gave us, that’s not enough time.”

In the current market, schools that wanted to order a new truck with a manual transmission would likely not secure the unit until next year, Jaswal says, adding that on-highway trucks with automated transmissions dominate equipment coming off today’s assembly lines.

In a June 11 letter to MTO safety development branch director Beth O’Connor, association lawyer Richard Lande argues the schools are already struggling to survive in the face of Covid-19 restrictions, and that new rules would require each school to acquire a pair of trucks with manual transmissions to support training and testing.

“There is not sufficient supply of manual transmission trucks which could be acquired prior to July 19,” Lande said in the letter, noting that many members don’t have the room to store additional vehicles.

Schools already need to rely on government support such as rent subsidies, says association director Navdeep Dhaliwal of the Advanced Truck Training Centre in Mississauga. “On top of that I have to spend, every month, at least four grand – parking, insurance and everything.”

Existing instructors, hired since the province allowed automated transmissions in road tests, would need to be retrained, he adds. And Dhaliwal questions whether provincial examiners will be prepared for tests using manual transmissions.

“The policy change which has been determined will also require instructors to get re-educated in order to learn manual transmission, and thereby competently teach the students,” Lande adds in the letter.

In one twist of fate, Dhaliwal says the association – previously known as the GTA Truck Driving School Association – once argued against using automated transmissions in road tests at all.

The association now argues that the training on manual transmissions would also take away from the teaching and training on automatic transmissions under the 103.5 hours of mandatory entry-level training in the province.

That training time is set as a minimum threshold. There are no limits to additional training hours in the province.

“New Class A applicants will continue to have the option to attempt their Class A road test with any type of transmission,” said O’Connor, in a notice regarding the plans. “If individuals wish to operate manual transmission Class A vehicles or wish to remove the Class A manual transmission restriction, they must pass the Class A road test in a vehicle with a manual transmission.”

The Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO) has said the July 19 deadline – pushed back from an original implementation date of May 17 – offers schools “ample time” to prepare programs. Its members include approximately 50 training campuses.

Lande says the association he represents was never consulted by the ministry about the implementation timeline and definition of manual transmissions.

“My client has informed me that they were never consulted and this has caused considerable disappointment since my client represents a significant segment of the truck training school constituency.”

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • MELT program hours are set up to be a minimum requirement and schools have a responsibility to provide (sell) additional hours of training to those students who need it. The premise of entry level training is to get all entrants to the industry up to the minimum standard so carriers can then build their skills from that point. If your instructors don’t have the required experience and skill set to drive the trucks how will they ever be able to teach someone else correctly? There are plenty of used tractors available with non-synchronized transmissions (don’t know too many schools buying new tractors) this should be an easy fix.

  • In all fairness, how has this changed anything? Schools ALWAYS had the choice of training equipment. The restriction is no more than an ingredient label–this person is trained on AUTOMATIC or this person is trained on STANDARD. Employers, the end user of new drivers, now know what they have and they can make the appropriate hiring decision (just like their USA counterpart does). Trucks Schools can continue to train in AUTOMATIC, no hardship for the school unless you wanted not to be transparent in how and what you train on.

    How about we add to the listing of training “ingredients”, such as EXCELLENT CVOR ratings?

  • Don’t look at me for pity…. I see enough undertrained truck drivers out there who were probably trained by trainers with no real world experience…. And experience such as driving a stick. A real instructor has real experience, and varied experience too. And part of that varied experience is having EXPERIENCED driving a manual transmission. So, where’s the beef? Will the inexperienced instructors be finally called out?

  • As a former instructor for A and D I believe all students should be taught on manual transmission and preferably a 13 speed so they know how to properly shift an automatic should only be given to a driver when they are hired automatic transmission should not be used at the drive test if a student or driver can’t shift properly they need to go back to school and get mor training

  • What’s the problem? Lots of used trucks with manual transmissions are available, cheaper than new, many with warranties so that alleviates delivery problems.
    None of the tractors at my school were new, all were retired highway tractors with manual transmissions except for one with an automated transmission.
    My instructors were all experienced in all aspects of the industry and could relate stories to back up lessons.
    If some of these schools are not up to par on all aspects of training then perhaps they shouldn’t be in operation?

  • MELT (ELT) equals getting a licence NOT training for the industry.

    A MTO licence equals – 6 pretrip questions; in cab inspection; uncoupling and coupling; 4 lefts – 4 rights, 20 min drive, generous backing manoeuvre – and VOILA – you’re a “driver”

    Public and Industry need to get together and make it clear to the training industry and the MTO that the minimum training and getting a licence is not just good enough.
    Perhaps a joint advertising campaign by the industry that an AZ licence may not be enough to get a good job – that quality training is a requirement for an application regardless of one year experience.

    Too many people looking for training, especially new Canadians are being taken advantage of – get their licence but then cannot find good employment. (I field the calls – almost daily- from drivers that have been on the road for a couple of weeks and realize they don’t have the required skills and need help)
    There will be more tragic crashes on our roads where lack of skill and inadequate training are a big part and root cause.

    Even for the training schools that do it well and do more training than ELT requires, graduate students that still need mentoring and “real world” training by company driver trainers – MELT just gives us steering wheel holders.

    As a former CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance) and Examiner, as well as Coach (CSCF) – truck training industry is very much in need of a major shake up. Truck training could benefit from a system such as certified training for ski instructors.

    But then again this is the same society and MTO that allows you to get a G licence in a subcompact then go buy a F-250 Super Duty and pull a trailer (4,600kg) with no training required on trailers, hitches, coupling, heavy loads, backing etc.

    As long as the minimum requirements for training remain the same – certain people in the truck training industry will be nothing more than providing licensing mills.

  • All students should have to spend at least 10 hours in a manual transmission truck. Many of these new drivers are foreign exchange students or people who were professionals or business people before coming to Canada. We need minimum standards for the instructors. Used Manual transmission trucks are available from $10,000 up. I do not want any truck driver on the road who can not read a map or news auto braking or a automatic transmission.