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.
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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