The loopholes in Ontario’s CVOR system are glaring and unacceptable
January 25, 2009
January 25, 2009
It’s an inescapable reality in our litigious society that a shipper’s reputation can rest in the hands of the carriers he decides to deal with. And so it should. There is an onus on the shipper to ensure he is working with reputable carriers that will not damage freight , client relationships or prove to be a safety hazard.
In Ontario shippers have been relying on the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) program to help them assess the safety practices of the motor carriers they’re considering doing business with. The system uses a formula based on roadside inspection results, collisions, convictions of either the operator or any of the operator’s drivers and audits at the operator’s place of business. On the surface it appears to be a sensible and easily accessible way to gauge if a certain motor carrier can be trusted with a shipper’s goods and reputation.
Or so I thought until recently. How else to explain the serious faults a recent audit has found in the ministry’s CVOR system?
The main goal of the CVOR program is for the ministry to be able to identify and deal with those operators, who for some reason or other, are taking unacceptable risks. In other words, to improve safety on our roads by being able to effectively identify the bad apples in the bunch.
But the audit found that the ministry is getting considerably less than a complete picture of the people operating commercial vehicles in the province.
Operators must register for one CVOR certificate that covers all the vehicles in their business. They also currently register each of their commercial vehicles separately through the province’s Private Issuing Network (PIN) offices, the same offices that register all other Ontario drivers and vehicles. Yet the audit found that – inexplicably – there is no requirement for PIN staff to ensure that owners of commercial vehicles have valid CVOR certificates when they register their vehicles. The audit found 1,600 cases where owners of commercial vehicles had registered their commercial vehicles with the ministry but did not have a CVOR certificate. In fact, there is no ministry process for determining if the owner is actually operating a business and should have a CVOR certificate.
Of course, if a commercial vehicle is involved in an event, such as a collision, conviction or roadside inspection and the operator is found to not have a CVOR record, ministry staff will instruct the operator to register for one. The audit found 20,600 such unregistered operators as of December 2007 yet noted that little follow-up is being done to make sure the operator actually bothers to follow through with the demand to register.
In fact of the 2,900 unregistered operators who had been charged between 2003 and 2007, 775 remained unregistered by the time of the audit. One of them had been charged 6 times yet remarkably had still not registered.
Now a shipper can simply determine not to do business with any motor carrier for which no CVOR record existed. That would be both easy and wise.
But not only is the province very slow to react in chasing down motor carriers breaking the rules, until recently it had no process in place for renewing the CVOR certificates of those carriers that do have them. So it was very difficult for the ministry to know precisely how many operators are in business in the province and how big their businesses are. Considering the CVOR rating takes into account the size of the operator’s fleet, the usefulness of the CVOR information in being able to pin point the higher-risk operators was compromised by the inability to regularly renew the data.
Why this should have been so is another head scratcher. Why did Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have such a renewal process in place but not Ontario?
I am concerned that I’m being too hard on Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation because the province has managed to slash by 10% the collision rate for commercial vehicles between 1995 and 2004 despite the fact commercial vehicle traffic over this 10-year period actually increased by 32%. That accomplishment can’t be ignored.
But at the same time I can’t understand how a ministry whose stated objective is to reduce the fatality rate of commercial collisions by 20% by 2010 can have allowed such glaring loopholes that jeopardize safety to exist.
The auditors made several recommendations on this and the many other issues they studied regarding the province’s monitoring and enforcement systems and procedures. The ministry has already started to address the shortcomings of the CVOR system; it should become a priority. The many motor carriers in Ontario who abide by the law, and invest the money necessary in staying legal, deserve no less.
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis