Code W and how it affects Class 1, 2,3 & 4 Drivers with US driving exposure

May 12th, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions

What changes are being implemented?
Effective March 3, 2014, as part of the Canada/U.S. Medical Reciprocity Agreement, Alberta will adopt a “W” identifier code, which will be displayed on the driver’s licence and driving record of those individuals not medically eligible to operate a commercial motor vehicle outside of Canada

Who will the changes affect?
Alberta commercial drivers operating a motor vehicle in classes 1, 2, 3, or 4 with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Insulin-dependent diabetes;
  • Established medical history or clinical diagnosis of epilepsy and/or seizures;
  • Unable to meet minimum hearing requirements to transport dangerous goods; and
  • Monocular vision.

When do the changes go into effect?
The Code W will be implemented on March 3, 2014.

Why are these changes being made?
Code Ws are being introduced in Alberta as a result of discussions between Canada and the United States to achieve reciprocity between the two nations on medical fitness for operators of commercial motor vehicles.

How were commercial drivers notified of this change?
Commercial drivers affected by the Code W have been sent correspondence indicating that their drivers’ licence and driving record now display a Code W.

Where does the Code W show on the licence?
The Code W appears on the face of the driver’s licence.

How many Alberta drivers are expected to have a Code W added to their licences?
Approximately 2,400 Alberta drivers will display a Code W on their licences and records.

How come Alberta drivers with a Code W can drive without restriction in Canada, when they are not allowed to drive into the United States?
Canada uses the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) Medical Standards for Drivers as a guideline in establishing basic minimum medical and vision qualifications for safe driving. The United States medical standards, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, prohibit drivers with the following conditions from operating commercial vehicles in the U.S.:

  • Insulin-dependent diabetes;
  • Established medical history or clinical diagnosis of epilepsy and/or seizures;
  • Unable to meet minimum hearing requirements to transport dangerous goods; and
  • Monocular vision.

Do other provinces use the Code W?
The Code W restriction is already used by some Canadian provinces and all provinces and territories will be implementing it eventually.

What will happen if a commercial driver with a Code W tries to cross the border into the United States?
Anyone with the Code W travelling into the United States who is operating a commercial vehicle will not be allowed to enter the U.S. However, those with Code Ws travelling into the United States for personal reasons in a non-commercial vehicle will still be granted access.

Will commercial drivers from the United States with the same medical conditions also display a Code W on their licences keeping them from driving commercially in Canada?
The United States is implementing a Code V identifying commercial drivers with medical conditions who don’t comply with the Canadian Standards.

Who is responsible for any costs associated with introducing the Code W?
The Code W will be displayed on the drivers’ licences and records of Alberta commercial drivers who have the medical conditions previously described. The Code W will appear as commercial licences are renewed so, no additional costs will be incurred Albertans in this process.

What if a Code W is added in error? How can this be fixed?
If drivers believe a Code W has been placed on their drivers’ licence in error, they should contact Alberta Transportation, Driver Fitness and Monitoring at 780-427-8230; Option  This number can be reached toll free in Alberta by first calling 310-0000 and then following the prompts.

Office hours are 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

What are the rules for notifying Alberta Transportation about commercial drivers with medical conditions?
Section 16 of the Operator Licensing and Vehicle Control Regulation requires Albertans to disclose any disease or disability that may interfere with the safe operation of a motor vehicle when they apply for an operator’s licence.

Does Alberta Transportation pay for the medical reports it requires?
Medical examinations and the completion of forms required to obtain or renew an operator’s licence are not covered under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) for Albertans younger than 74.5 years of age, though such services are covered for those 74.5 years of age and over. For those not covered, physicians may bill the patient directly for the exam and form completion.

When is a medical report required?
Medicals are required at age 75, age 80, and every two years thereafter for holders of class 3, 5, 6 and 7 licences. Medical reports are required for holders of class 1, 2 and 4 commercial licences every five years until age 45, every two years until age 65, and annually thereafter.

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