License restriction could catch some Canadian truckers off guard

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 4/23/2013

Within a few weeks, thousands of Canadian truckers with medical restrictions that prevent them from operating in the U.S. will see a “W” appear on their licenses. The law is not new, but the appearance of the letter will be. The catch is, the restriction will also be given to thousands of unrestricted truckers unless they file an up-to-date medical certification form with their province.

According to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, a commercial driver may not operate in the U.S. if that driver has a history of epilepsy, diabetes requiring insulin, hearing impairment or vision impairment. That law has been on the books for many years, but the medical restrictions categorized as “W” under a Canada-U.S. reciprocity agreement were simply a matter of paperwork between Transport Canada and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The agreement between the two countries recognizes differences and similarities including proof of fitness to drive in the neighboring country. For years, the Ontario Trucking Association and Ontario Motor Coach Association have lobbied to get the W classification to appear on a driver’s actual license.

Starting at the end of May, the physical letter “W” will begin appearing on commercial licenses to notify carriers, border agents and law enforcement about a driver’s medical restrictions.

According to a report by CBC, approximately 6,000 restricted drivers will get the W classification. The report said as many as 41,000 unrestricted drivers who have not filed updated medical forms will also get the W code.

Bob Nichols, senior media liaison officer with Ontario’s transportation ministry says there’s a process for unrestricted drivers to remove the W classification from their licenses.

“To have the W Code removed, drivers must fax an up-to-date medical report form to the Ministry of Transportation,” Nichols told Land Line.

“The medical form must confirm that the driver does not have any of the four medical conditions that would prohibit driving in the U.S. This includes those drivers who were downgraded for not filing a cyclical medical report.” 

Nichols said the ministry will send out a letter within 30 business days of receiving a driver’s medical report to confirm that the W code has been removed.

Copyright © OOIDA