The transportation industry is booming and truck drivers are in high demand. A career in trucking starts with obtaining either your AZ license or your DZ license. Working for a trucking company with give you the dependability of a steady job. Otherwise, driving as an owner operator gives you the freedom and flexibility of the open road and your own schedule.
- Find out how to drive dump trucks, straight trucks, and cement trucks with our DZ license Ontario Guide
You have the option to drive long hauls across the country or stay local and run linehauls. This gives you more opportunity to see the new cities, states, and even counties! But first, if you want to get a good job driving a tractor-trailer in Ontario you will need to hold an AZ driver’s license.
With an AZ license you will be able to drive any vehicle in class G, D and A with condition R. The full class A license with Z-endorsement allows drivers to operate trailers and motor vehicles equipped with air-brakes.
What is a Z-endorsement?
The Z-endorsement qualifies you to operate a vehicle with air brakes. It is common to find air brakes on most trucks with more than two axels. This makes it important to have the Z-endorsement on your commercial driver’s license. This is also something that many and most employers look for when hiring a driver. The Ontario ministry of transportation has created a handbook for driving with air brakes. Most of the questions on the written test can be answered using the information in the handbook so it is recommended to get a copy online from the ministry’s website. When you apply for your Z-endorsement you will have to take a written knowledge test and a practical test. Both the A license tests and the Z license tests can be taken at the same time.
5 Steps to get Your Commercial AZ License in Ontario
Getting your AZ license in Ontario is not an easy task. Commercial driving in Ontario is serious business and their are strict regulations in place to help maintain safety standards. It is important that you are well trained and prepared for any situation you may encounter while on the road.
The licensing process can be broken down into 5 steps.
Make sure you meet the AZ License Requirements
First, you need to make sure you meet all of the minimum requirements for your application.
- At least 18 years of age
- Have a valid G class driver’s license
- Pass the vision and medical examination
- Pass the written knowledge test and the road test
- Complete a mandatory entry level training course
Medical and Vision Exams
You will also need to complete a medical and vision exam to ensure you are able to safely operate your vehicle. There are a few things you need to do to complete this step
- Book an appointment with a physician or a nurse practitioner
- Complete the medical examination form to hand in with your application
If you are a driver below the age of 46, you are required to produce a medical report every 5 years. A report every three years if you are between 46 and 64 years old. Drivers aged 65 and above are required to hand in a medical report once a year.
Your medical exam appointment should cost you anywhere between $50 and $150. If you do not have a doctor you can contact Driver Check Medical Testing to find a location near you.
Apply and Write the Knowledge Test
When you apply for your commercial license you will be required to pay your licensing fees and pass a written test.
- Commercial license package (knowledge test and road test): $120.00
- Full commercial license package if you’re between ages 65 and 79: $29.75
- Z-endorsement (written and practical): $65.75
- Five year commercial license: $90.00
You will be required to pass a vision test while you are applying for your commercial AZ license. If you do not pass the vision test at the DriveTest centre, you must make an appointment with an optometrist. Your optometrist will test the strength of your eyes as well as the width or your peripheral field.
You can pick up a copy of the vision exam form from a DriveTest centre or online at the MTO website. The vision examination may also cost you anywhere between $50 and $150, call your optometrists office for an accurate fee.
Pass your knowledge test
The next step is to take the knowledge test. The written portion of the commercial licensing test is a multiple choice test based on the information provided in the Ministry Handbooks. If you studied from the handbooks you will have a very high chance of passing the written test.
The AZ License test is available in 8 different languages including English, French, Hindi and Tamil. Test time generally runs between 20 and 30 minutes to complete. No appointment is necessary to take the test but it is best to avoid busy times of day.
The multiple choice questions based on the material from the handbook are split into 3 sections on the test. A DriveTest staff member will mark your test once you have completed all 3 sections. If you receive a mark of 80% or higher you pass the test and will be granted a license. If you fail the test you must pay a fee ($23.35) to take the test and try again.
Complete your mandatory entry level training
After your trip to the DriveTest centre you will need to take a training course from an accredited private career college. The province has made it mandatory that all drivers applying for an AZ license must attend a 103.5 hour training program.
The program is called MELT (Mandatory Entry Level Training) and is available through private instruction schools. The costs for this course are quite expensive and can be between $7,000 and $10,000.
There are government programs available that will help you offset the cost of training. You must apply and be eligible for the program to benefit. The programs can be found at the bottom the this page located on the Ontario website.
Pass your road and practical tests
Once your training is done you can move on to the last step and take your practical road tests. The road test is where you will put all of your hard work into practice. You will need to prove to your examiner that you know and understand how to drive your vehicle safely.
You will need to bring a few items with you to your road tests. Here is your test day pack list:
- Class A vehicle in good working order (insured vehicle required)
- Your current driver’s license
- Paper copy of the road test confirmation email
A few items you will need specifically for the Z-endorsement practical
- Wheel chocks
- Knowledge of the size and type of air brakes on the test vehicle
- A way of holding the break pedal engaged
- Something to mark a measure the pushrod stroke
- Hard hat and safety glasses
- Brake adjustments limit chart
The first part of the test is a pre-trip inspections (this should always be your first step when driving). During the rest of the test the examiner will have you perform specific tasks that you will be evaluated on.
If your skills are up to par and the examiner is happy with your performance you will pass the road test. The DriveTest centre will then grant you a 90 day temporary AZ license.
If you fail, the examiner will show you where you need improvement. You will have to wait 10 days before you can pay the fee and retake the test.
Extra recommended trucking documents
In addition to the requirements above, it is important to have a clean driving record. You can pick up a copy of your driver’s abstract from the MTO for around $12. Employers will want to know your driving history and a clean driving record shows them that you will be a safe choice for their team.
It is important to continue to learn about your truck. Learn about the brakes, the fuel system, the electronics, learn everything you can to help better understand your vehicle. The more you know the more valuable you will be.
To travel between countries you will need a valid passport from the country in which you are a citizen. When travelling between Canada and the United States, you will need a passport or a travel visa for the country you are entering.
The FAST card, border crossing made easy
A good option for border crossings is the FAST card (Free and Secure Trade program). The FAST card is a commercial clearance program for known low-risk shipments entering the United States from Canada or Mexico. The program allows for quicker processing for carriers with background checks and meet the FAST requirements.
Time to hook up your trailer and hit the road!
The open road is calling and now that you are fully licensed to drive Class AZ vehicles, it is time to start looking for work.
Employers are looking for drivers with a solid training background and a great skill set. With your mandatory training you will be well suited for work in the trucking industry making work easier to find.
Stay safe, meet your deadlines, and have fun!
Not ready for a trailer yet? Check out our guide to the DZ license!