Ontario driver argues against lower point thresholds for senior truckers

Currently retired after serving 34 years in the military, Francois Juneau describes himself as an occasional trucker. He has always loved trucks and over the last 30 years has maintained a clean record while driving them across North America.

However, he is convinced the Ontario government doesn’t welcome senior A/Z truck drivers, citing the rules that apply to truckers over the age of 65.

Juneau received a speeding ticket in his Chevrolet Bolt this March, going 78 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. It meant two demerit points in Quebec, where the ticket was issued, but three points in Ontario, where he lives.

Had he realized what that meant, he says he would have fought the ticket.

In Ontario, truck drivers who are 65 or older need to re-take road tests, air brake tests, and medical exams after accumulating more than two points. The annual medical exams are required in four provinces, but Ontario is the only jurisdiction that requires the re-testing with two demerit points.

Without the demerit points, he would only face a knowledge test every five years when renewing the licence. It also would have been different if he lived in Quebec, where the ticket was issued. The Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) says the province’s drivers face the same point thresholds as their younger counterparts, so no re-testing would be required other than a medical exam that comes every two years.

Juneau says the letter he received from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, giving him 60 days to redo his tests, was “humiliating”. He completed the same tests last year with flying colors.

Since he decided against re-testing, his licence was downgraded to a G on July 18.

But Juneau is not giving up and wants to fight what he believes is age discrimination, filing a complaint to the Ontario Tribunal for Human Rights, and challenging the threshold that drops senior drivers from an allowed 14 to two demerit points.

“There’s no logic behind that. None whatsoever. Where does experience count? It doesn’t,” he says.

Experience does matter, says Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada. While age remains a factor in insurance and assessing risks, de Pruis says that experience, claims history, and driving record are key.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has not received specific concerns about senior commercial drivers in Ontario or other provinces, he adds.

Meanwhile, Juneau notes that he will be allowed up to 14 demerit points on the G licence.

“All of a sudden, I am a good citizen again,” he says sarcastically.

“It takes more skill to operate a transport, and the requirements should be stricter,” says Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC). “You may be OK to operate a car, but not a commercial motor vehicle that weighs upwards of 140,000 pounds.”

The PMTC also believes the stipulations to keep a licence should be “a little stricter” with age, because drivers can lose some of their cognitive ability over time.

“They [drivers aged 65 and older] are not overrepresented in accidents compared to the heavy vehicle drivers in general, nor compared to the general drivers.”

– Sophie Roy, SAAQ

However, in Quebec, senior heavy vehicle drivers do not represent a higher risk on the road, says Sophie Roy, SAAQ’s public relations officer.

“Based on our statistics, between 2016 and 2021, they [drivers aged 65 and older] are not overrepresented in accidents compared to the heavy vehicle drivers in general, nor compared to the general drivers in the population of the province.”

On average, 43 senior commercial drivers are involved in a personal injury accident annually, says Roy.

In Manitoba, too, senior drivers face the same thresholds as their younger counterparts when it comes to Driver Safety Records.

“Age is not a factor,” says Kristy Rydz, communications manager at Manitoba Public Insurance.

Millian suggests it might be time for Ontario to re-assess how senior drivers have been performing on the road since the points thresholds were established.

“It could be argued that three points may be too low. We haven’t had these discussions with the province, but it is definitely a question that could be raised. Maybe it’s time to review this policy that’s been in place for nine years. We have not looked at it for quite a while, and to be honest, it’s a discussion that should be opened up with the ministry.”

But the conversations might last months and years, and one in four of Canada’s truck drivers are already aged 55-64, according to Trucking HR Canada.

Juneau believes tough and “humiliating” rules might worsen the problem of a truck driver shortage in Ontario.

“We’re lacking truck drivers. Well, guess what? That doesn’t help. Look at all the drivers and guess their average age – you will see a lot of gray hair, I am sure.”