Recently the Ontario Ministry of Transportations posted a proposal to amend the process of a driver renewing their Z endorsement for air brakes on their Ontario driver’s license.

The current process requires a driver to attend a Drive Test Center prior to their license expiring, and then write and pass a knowledge test in order to maintain the Z endorsement on their driver’s license. The process is the same for those who have a commercial license class, such as a Class A or D, among others. The knowledge test allows drivers to demonstrate they have the basic knowledge required to operate and inspect a commercial motor vehicle and its air brake system.

Commercial drivers’ knowledge of the air brake system and inspecting its parts and operation continue to be an issue in Ontario and all of Canada. In 2022, stats released by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance highlight the need for improved air brake knowledge. In their road check blitz in 2022, 48,966 level 1 and 2 inspections were completed in Canada and the US combined. 22.8% of vehicles were taken out of service for defects. Of the vehicles taken out of service, vehicles inspected in the USA, 36.9% had defects in the braking systems. In Canada, the numbers were even worse, with 48.4% of vehicles taken out of service having brake defects. This by far represented the highest percentage of defects found, and this continues to be the case year after year. These numbers indicate a major issue with maintenance and failure of the air brake system as well as inspections being conducted prior to the beginning of a day’s work.

While these numbers indicate we need to change the way things are currently being done, the PMTC believes removing the knowledge test is a step that should not be taken, and in fact has the real opportunity of reducing drivers’ knowledge of the air brake system and reducing safety on our roadways. The PMTC has no issue with the learning modules and believe this is a good opportunity to increase a drivers’ knowledge of the air brake system, the concern we have is removing the knowledge verification. Allowing a driver to complete learning modules at home, with no other checkpoints or verification in place is opening up a real opportunity for fraud. How will you verify the person doing the module is in fact the license holder? How can you verify that they are reviewing the information and taking the knowledge in, and not just going through the motions and advancing through the program? No matter what type of secure online system you have in place, their will be no fool proof way to ensure the person required to take the modules is in fact the correct person, short of having a staff member sitting online with the person and verifying the person on the screen is in fact the license holder. The only true way to verify the license holder has the minimum knowledge required is to have them attend a Drive Test Center and perform the knowledge test in person. Adding the knowledge modules is a good step, but that step should not come along with a removal of the knowledge verification process if we expect it to improve safety.

As for the Ministries argument that this is removing a barrier, that does not really hold water. The driver is still going to be required to go to Drive Test to renew their license and do the written test if they have any other commercial class of license. The only burden this is removing is the requirement of the driver to pass the Z knowledge test. With many of our members holding all classes of commercial licenses,  we feel if you are unable to pass the basic requirements of a knowledge test, we really don’t believe you should be on our highways as you do not have the basic knowledge required to inspect and operate a vehicle with an air brake system.

The PMTC is encouraging the province to reconsider this proposal, and we encourage you to comment on the regulatory posting to ensure your views are heard as well. The posting can be asked through the link below and is open for comments until March 16th.

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