TORONTO, Ont. – Ontario DriveTest centers are returning to full service on Sept. 8, completing a gradual reopening that followed a shutdown linked to Covid-19.

All restrictions are being removed – including a measure that forced people to complete knowledge tests on specific days, with a schedule based on birth months.

A pilot study is looking to ease testing backlogs by sending examiners to training school locations. (Photo: Crossroads Truck Training Academy)

“Our government has taken great care to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers as DriveTest centers have gradually reintroduced services,” Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said in a related release. “The resumption of full driver testing services at DriveTest centers will help more people to get back to work as our province continues to reopen.”

The 56 DriveTest centers were closed on March 23, but gradually began to re-establish services on June 22.

There will still be some operating restrictions, however. DriveTest continues to require people to wear face coverings inside its locations and during road tests, sanitize hands when entering the buildings, and submit to temperature checks and screening questions before taking road tests. Examiners will also wear face shields and be equipped with sanitizer packages and seat covers.

The temporary closures intensified backlogs that have forced some of the province’s driver training schools to travel far afield when looking to schedule the all-important exams. Changes to backing procedures introduced under the province’s Mandatory Entry-Level Training regime reduced the number of trainees who could be accommodated at some locations.

Pilot project for road tests

But the full reopening of DriveTest centers also comes as the province launches a pilot project that gives pre-screened training schools the option of scheduling examiners to conduct road tests at campus sites.

Ottawa’s Crossroads Truck Training Academy – one of four schools participating in the pilot – is already reporting a positive experience with the approach, following the first two days of testing.

“It was absolutely fantastic,” said Ken Adams, Crossroads’ director of operations. “The students felt a lot more at ease, so those anxiety-ridden mistakes that they would make – even though they know the content – were non-existent.”

A Serco examiner tested seven trainees at the location, and six of them earned their Class AZ licence.

The test route is the same one they would normally cover, but the parking procedures were completed at the campus, using a layout the examiner had marked in the parking lot.

The biggest advantage is that there are now guaranteed times for the tests. Crossroads has had to travel as far afield as Smiths Falls and Hawkesbury DriveTest centers because of a testing backlog in Ottawa. And it’s competed for testing windows with schools traveling from as far away as Brampton and Mississauga.

“That’s less of us out there fishing the other Drive Test centers to see if they had spots,” Adams said, referring to the advantage of at-school testing.

It admittedly adds another cost that cuts into the thin margins recorded by such schools, but there are savings that come by not having to deliver equipment to other locales.

“At the end of the day, I think it all works out,” he said.

Other schools participating in the pilot include Commercial Heavy Equipment Training (CHET) in Mississauga, Northern Academy of Transportation Training (NATT) in Sudbury, and Northstar Truck Driving School in Windsor.

Participating schools need to agree to a weekly or bi-weekly testing schedule, pay for a 7.5-hour block of testing, and submit schedules at least a week in advance. They also face a one-time set-up fee of $305 and pay $231 per testing day to cover examiner travel costs.

John G Smith by John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media’s trucking and supply chain publications — including Today’s Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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