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Putting it to the test

If you read my blog entry of a few weeks ago, you’ll be aware I recently enrolled in a driving school to finally get my Class One driver’s licence. This past week that long-time goal of having a “1” written in the classification box on my wallet card finally came to fruition. I’m now legally entitled to drive a semi.

Of course one of the other requirements for driving a rig is to have an air brake rating, which I now have again, too. Looking back on the long and winding road of finally getting those ratings here in Manitoba, it occurs to me the provinces in this country don’t really seem to trust each other very far when it comes to issuing licences.

Here’s why I say that.

I first earned by air brake rating in Saskatchewan back in 1978. I needed it for one of my first jobs, which was delivering gas and diesel to farmyards for a local bulk fuel dealer. The tanker truck I drove had air brakes, but my Class Five licence was good enough. (Smaller trucks were more common then, because delivery volumes to each farmyard were lower.)

A few years later I found myself standing in a licencing office in BC. Having moved there, I had to trade in my Saskatchewan card for one in that province. They were willing to let me swap over my Class Five licence, but not my air brake rating—unless I wrote another test. I wasn’t prepared for it that day and didn’t really it need for the job I had. So I let it lapse.

But a couple of years later, my employer sent me on a course to get it back. After a couple of days in the classroom, I rewrote the written test and took another practical exam to earn it back.

When I moved yet again, this time to Manitoba, MPI let me keep my air brake rating, but the class of licence I had wasn’t acceptable to drive the same vehicle there I was allowed to drive in BC on a lower class rating.

So another test was in order.

After a couple more years, my bags were packed again and I was heading back to where I started, Saskatchewan. This time, they still had my licence on file and getting everything back was simple. Except for that school bus driver rating I used to have, which I couldn’t keep unless I wrote another test, because I hadn’t driven one in the last four years. That I could live without, because it’s a job I never want to have again! My hearing was probably irreparably damaged from hauling around a lot of high-energy kids.

(I also lost that rating when I moved to BC, because that province didn’t have such a thing at the time.)

But now that we’re back in Manitoba for the second time, getting a licence here wasn’t quite so simple. New rules put in place required an awful lot of paperwork just to get the process started. And the Class One learner endorsement I’d added to my licence in Saskatchewan couldn’t be transferred over, because it wasn’t a “full” rating. That despite the fact Manitoba has exactly the same thing. And the driver’s medical exam I had in Saskatchewan was no good either. I need a Manitoba doctor to do another one.

So, yup, another test and examination. And my twice-won air brake rating didn’t count either if I wanted to drive an 18-wheeler. Why still isn’t clear to me.

Now after completing three air brake tests, two Class One written tests and finally taking my road test through the streets of Winnipeg with one of the trucks supplied by the driving school, I’m licenced.

Looking back, I wonder if all those tests were really necessary. Shouldn’t moving a few hours down the highway be a little simpler than that? Does achieving full harmonization of driver licence categories and ratings between provinces need to be as difficult as getting BC and Alberta to agree on the Kinder Morgan pipeline?

But now that I have that licence I always wanted, was it worth it anyway? Absolutely!



About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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