Provinces must work together to monitor carrier safety fitness

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The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) feels it’s time provinces and territories work together to monitor the safety fitness of carriers across the country.

The following is an excerpt of a letter sent to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, Transport Canada, and the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation, which makes the case:

cooperation illustration
(Illustration: iStock)

Currently, commercial motor carriers who wish to operate a trucking fleet in Canada must apply for a Safety Fitness Certificate from the provincial authority in which they plan to licence their vehicles.

If the provincial authority of the base jurisdiction approves the application, a National Safety Code (NSC) number will be issued to the carrier. The base jurisdiction is then responsible for monitoring the motor carrier for safety and compliance, based on National Safety Code 14, which is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) all jurisdictions agreed to several years ago.

While in theory this process comes across as seamless and consistent, the reality of how carriers are monitored from one jurisdiction to the other varies significantly. For instance, if you were to run a Safety Fitness Certificate from a carrier based in Ontario and then run one from a carrier in Alberta, it would be almost impossible to compare the safety rating of the two fleets and decipher which of the two is safest.

The substantial differences in how one jurisdiction scores a carrier’s provincial safety rating compared to another, also leads to ‘chameleon carriers’ simply closing shop in one jurisdiction and opening in another, exploiting the lack of communication between jurisdictions.

No central reporting system

In addition, there are many carriers in Canada that exploit the lack of a central reporting system, and lack of checks and balances in place between jurisdictions. They start several fleets, register each of them in different jurisdictions with different National Safety Code numbers.

When they face challenges in one jurisdiction, they simply continue to operate in the others by transferring vehicles over to the fleet in another jurisdiction so they can continue to operate despite having an undesirable safety profile.

The recent case with Chohan Freight Forwarders in B.C. illustrates the current problem. The fleet had its operating authority suspended in B.C., but had another federally regulated fleet operating out of Alberta.

The absence of a coordinated and centralized system has basically allowed this fleet, deemed unsafe by one jurisdiction, to continue to operate across the country, including into the province that just suspended its operating authority. A fleet should only be allowed to have one National Safety Code number. A central reporting system would alleviate this type of unsafe practice and ensure a proper tracking system across the country.

A simple internet search by one of our insurance members demonstrates the seriousness of the problem. Back in 2022, it was found that 34 trucking companies were listed as operating out of the same address in Dartmouth, N.S., while another 54 companies were found to be listed as operating at one address in Halifax, N.S.

Most of the emails associated with these companies were the same, from a consultant in Brampton, Ont. A quick check at the time showed no trucks were located in either of these locations, despite records showing 88 trucking companies being registered at these locations.

‘Jurisdiction shopping’

This is just one example of “jurisdiction shopping,” when trucking companies set up their business in a location to save on operating costs, insurance, oversight, or can easily relocate if shut down in another jurisdiction.

To rectify this, we need a nationally recognized MOU that is more descriptive than what is currently in place and has some teeth, creating a standardized Carrier Provincial Safety Rating.

We must ensure that all the regions across the country monitor and audit carriers following the same consistent criteria with results easily accessible from a central reporting system/one stop shop.

Hence, everyone will be able to see and compare a carrier’s safety score regardless of region. Seamless access to carriers’ compliance/non-compliance must be easily accessible to all, including the shippers who could then verify the safety of the fleet they are hiring.

To achieve this goal, coordinated and harmonized jurisdictional regulations are needed. The current inconsistencies in regulations and enforcement from one jurisdiction to another reduce efficiency and increase burdens and cost to the industry.

Sadly, it also leads to some carriers who do not have safety and compliance at the top of their priorities to go jurisdiction shopping to find the province with the least stringent regulations in which to register.  

The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada has been raising this issue at meetings with governments since 2015, and the most recent case in B.C. highlights the seriousness of this issue.

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Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada. He can be reached at

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