This is a great time to start a career in commercial trucking! Across the continent, both in Canada and the States, shipping companies are desperate for drivers. It’s very much a hungry labour market, and anyone who qualifies as a driver with a clean driving record is going to have an easy time finding employment. Plus, you can make great money and have the fun of driving free across the open roads.
Central to this is earning your Ontario AZ license, a requirement for most forms of commercial vehicle operation. The right school, like 5th Wheel Training Institute, can make this easier, but it’s a fairly complicated process in any case.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most common issues, and answer your questions about the process!
Why You Need an AZ License
The AZ license is standard for nearly all heavy equipment operators and long-haul truckers. The “A” part of the license qualifies you to drive most trucks heavier than 11,000 kilograms with a trailer greater than 4600 kgs. The “Z” is a special certification for use of air brakes, which are substantially different from the disc brakes in civilian vehicles. The Z certification isn’t technically required, but the vast majority of heavy machines use air brakes, so you need it.
The other alternative would be getting a DZ license, which covers vehicles whose gross weight is over 11,000 kgs and a trailer less than 4600 kgs. However, this would severely limit your employment opportunities, even if the license is a bit easier to obtain.
One important note: neither the AZ nor DZ license allows you to operate large passenger vehicles like buses. These require a different class of license. (B, E, or F depending on size.)
The Requirements for An AZ License
There are, of course, several requirements to be able to obtain an AZ license in Ontario.
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a valid non-trainee Ontario driver’s license for four-wheeled vehicles. Motorcycle licenses don’t qualify.
- Be able to pass a vision test, with corrective lenses if necessary.
- Submit a full medical report. Unfortunately, some medical conditions can disqualify you if they could interfere with driving.
- Pass a certified AZ license training course with at least 103.5 hours of training, plus 8 hours for air brake training.
- Pass both written and on-road tests under state supervision.
In addition, while not required for the license itself, you should have reasonably clean driving records and criminal records. Too many accidents, criminal activity, or any sort of DUI conviction, will quickly ruin your chances of employment.
The Costs of Obtaining Your AZ License
This can be a barrier to entry because it will cost several thousand dollars to become fully qualified and capable of working. The major fees (as of 2022) are:
- $122.75 for the A-class test and road tests
- $100-$150 for your medical and vision exams, depending on the doctor.
And then there’s training, which makes up the bulk of the cost. Heavy equipment AZ license schools will typically cost between $5,000 – $12,000. Despite the costs, this is not a place to cut corners! Truck driving schools are very much a “you get what you pay for” situation, and you really don’t want to skimp on training when you’re going to be controlling 80,000 pounds of truck and cargo at highway speeds.
Plus, the best schools are recognized by the industry. Spending a couple thousand extra to attend a top-tier school should almost immediately pay off by improving your employment opportunities. The very best schools are used for recruitment, and you may be able to go straight from training into your first job, after graduating.
Also, some transportation companies will pay for training themselves, which could drop your overall cost burden to just a few hundred dollars. However, be aware: these arrangements ALWAYS lock you into an extended multi-year contract with that company. This can work out for you but breaking the contract will bring steep penalties. Think hard about your future, and the reputation of the company, before signing up for such deals.
What You’re Tested On
So, when it’s time to take your driving tests, what should you expect?
The tests for your AZ license are well-known, and there are plenty of practice tests available if you look. Broadly, as of 2022, the test structure is: 30 questions about road rules, 20 questions about road signs, and 20 questions about air brakes, for a total of 70 questions.
The information for these are in the MTO handbooks, which will be your main reference for passing the written portion of the test.
Passing the written test requires a score of at least 80%. You can’t skate by here. Retakes are possible, but they will increase your costs since you have to pay for each test out of pocket.
Plus, there’s the on-road driving test, which will be skill-based. You’ll be evaluated by a trained driver who will put you through numerous tests based on real-world applications. In addition, you’ll also need to show knowledge of your vehicle, such as doing a pre-drive inspection. Air brake testing will also be a part of this.
5th Wheel Training Institute Is Here to Help You Succeed!
We know this process can be intimidating, but it’s important. After all, an out-of-control truck can do a lot of damage. So, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to pass your tests and receive your AZ license!
We’re one of the top truck driving schools in Ontario, with an excellent reputation throughout the industry. You’ll receive instruction from former drivers and other members of the industry, as well as getting hands-on training in our custom-built simulated work sites. We are proud of everything we do, and our graduates are among the best. That’s why companies routinely come to us for recruitment!
To learn more about our school, just click here.