OTA launches campaign to revamp senior driver testing requirements

by Canadian Shipper

TORONTO, Ont. — The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) has renewed calls for the province to revisit its annual road test requirements for senior drivers.

It has set up a Web site on its home page (www.ontruck.org) that allows drivers to make their views known to their MPPs. The page can be accessed by clicking the ‘Help end discrimination against older truck drivers’ button on the right-hand side of the page. Included on the site is a form letter, contact information for all MPPs and OTA’s policy on the issue.


The controversial issue of mandatory road testing of all drivers aged 65 and older has been simmering since 2006, when the province abolished its mandatory retirement requirements. At the time, the Minister of Labour announced “your skills, ability, drive and determination do not stop once you turn 65. It (this legislation) recognizes that those who are 65 and older should enjoy the same right to earn a living, and contribute to society, as those who are younger.”


OTA felt the statement should apply equally to senior A/Z licence holders, who are required to complete a road test every year after reaching the age of 65. The association developed a policy that would eliminate the annual road test requirement for most senior drivers, but the MTO has refused to budge. The issue was brought back to the forefront after a cover story  and editorial in the March issue of Truck News highlighted the unintended consequences new testing requirements are having on senior drivers.


Since June 2008, drivers have been forced to take their road test using a truck with a: manual transmission; trailer at least 45-ft. in length; and air brakes on the tractor and trailer. While the new requirements were intended to close loopholes that allowed entry-level drivers to acquire an A/Z licence using equipment that doesn’t reflect the realities of their working environment, it has also squeezed many experienced professional drivers from the industry. Since the article was published, Truck News has received dozens of calls from senior drivers who have left the industry out of frustration, or are considering leaving the industry due to the onerous requirements.


Ironically, many of them have accrued millions of miles of accident-free driving using trucks with manual transmissions, but have switched to automated gearboxes in recent years because they were considered a more efficient and safer spec’. The cost of renting a truck with a manual transmission is prohibitive to many owner/operators, especially in a challenging economic environment.


David Bradley, president of the OTA said the current testing requirements are “forcing good full-time, part-time and casual drivers, into unwanted, forced, retirement at the age of 65.” He noted no other jurisdiction in North America requires senior drivers to take a road test each year.


“Every week I hear from older drivers in or approaching this age category who want to keep working, who are as vibrant and hard-working as anyone else and the question is always the same: When is MTO going to change the rules for licence renewals?“ said Bradley. “This is a legitimate question and one only the government can answer.”


“These drivers deserve to be heard,” he added. “So we have created a tool on the OTA Web site which will allow drivers to easily identify who their MPP is, simply by typing in their postal code, and retrieve the e-mail or mailing address so they can contact their MPP directly. We also provide a sample letter the drivers can use as they see fit and an OTA briefing note on the issue.”


The OTA is urging all drivers to contact their MPPs, and is also suggesting carriers notify their drivers of the new online tool. The Owner/Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC) meanwhile, is also developing a Web page that will serve as a resource for MPPs who are unfamiliar with the issue. It is currently under development, and will soon be available at www.obac.ca. The Truck News article and other background information will be posted there as well, so MPPs can get up to speed on the issue.


If adopted, the OTA policy, which is also outlined on its Web page, suggests: A driver would be required to prove medical fitness every year after reaching the age of 65; the renewal period for a CDL upon reaching the age of 65 should be two years until the driver reaches the age of 71, and annually thereafter; and the driver would be required to pass the normal written test and written air brake examination, but would only be required to take a road test and practical air brake examination if they have more than: five demerit points, one preventable accident and/or one out-of-service violation.


The policy would spare the vast majority of safe, professional senior drivers the cost and burden of taking a road test every year.


There is a precedent for successful letter-writing campaigns supported by both the OTA and OBAC. In March 2007, the federal government announced it would restore the meal tax deduction limit for professional drivers from 50% to 80%, following an effort dubbed the ‘Lunchbag Letdown Campaign,’ launched by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (a national affiliate of the OTA), OBAC and the Teamsters union. More than 4,000 postcards were filled in by drivers and sent to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office as part of the initiative.


The federal budget released in March, 2007 contained legislation that would gradually restore the meal tax deduction limit to 80% by 2011.

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