The loopholes in Ontario’s CVOR system are glaring and unacceptable

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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.

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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.

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  • Another area the MTO is missing with the CVOR program cpncerns drive-away companies that deliver new or used vehicles. These “drive-away” companies may have over 100 trucks, buses being delivered everyday for a single company. They use a dealer plate and therefore do not have to worry about having a current annual safety inspection on the vehicle and the company does not have to register for a CVOR so they are not tracked at all in the CVOR program and anyother program in Ontario. If they run in the US they are required to have a US DOT number and display it, but once they hit the Ontario border they can simply take the name and DOT display out of the window and do not have to show it to anyone.
    These companies operate very much under the radar and this needs to be changed to make sure they are held accountable for accidents and safety issues.

    • Mr. Gould,

      While you are slandering a $600 million dollar a year industry and those who serve it, consider these questions I would like you to answer.

      If we are flying under the radar, why do we still comply with HoS regulations, truly the most efficient source of driver safety?

      Even though I operate without a CVOR, any infractions I am subjected to are applied to my driver’s license and are retained there for 5 years.

      With all of your apparent knowledge of the rules and regulations we are subject to, riddle me this. A CVOR and annual inspection can only be applied to a new truck once said truck has been registered. There are many moves a truck must make to get to this step. So how can I apply a CVOR to a commercial vehicle that isn’t in the system?

      As with any aspect of the trucking industry, there are those who shouldn’t be out there. Please refrain from grouping us all in the same basket. Or at least research your comments before you make them.

  • Lou, if only the Ministry and decision makers would read this, we may have even safer roads. I work for a rental company and stay on top of my rating. I have several major points on my record from my corporate accounts who rent our truck and get in trouble with it. 99% of these companies operate under a CVOR, but because I own the truck, they give me the points. This is the same issue for the really big fleets (i.e. Penske, Ryder). These records stay on the record until the ministry finds time to erase them and put them against the guilty parties CVOR rating, if they even have one. Some sort of overhaul is required.

  • You wrote: “In fact, there is no ministry process for determining if the owner is actually operating a business and should have a CVOR certificate.”
    We operate two small SUV’s (Jeep Compass) to carry ladders and inspection equipment to perform environmental assessments (mostly asbestos, PCBs and lead). Do we need to get a CVOR?

  • Operators who are identified as requiring a CVOR, who have not registered will nonetheless have a CVOR number assigned just as a driver who is not licenced but continues to drive will have a driver licence number created for him/her. There are situations where a large vehicle MAY be exempt from registering in the CVOR system, and the staff at the Licence Issuing Offices are not trained to make this determination. I worked at MTO Enforcement for many years and now make a living defending trucking companies and drivers in Provincial Offences court. Should you have any questions regarding the CVOR system, feel free to call me at (416) 221-6888 or 8888-668-8946.Ask for Mark Reynolds

  • Lou,
    The CVOR is another example of big government appearing to do something to appease those that are concerned about a problem they heard of in the media. The CVOR sounds like common sense to me. Keep a log book for your vehicle and inspect potential problem areas on a daily basis. Do we need a program for that? Now it costs 250 bucks and there is a fleet of MTO guys swooping down on all the problem cases (real added value). I tried to setup a small landscaping company so I must register with the CVOR (250 bucks and I must wait to get on the program?). I must rate my vehicle (1 ton pickup) as though it were pulling 22000 pounds (approximately another 250) in case I am pulling dirt/topsoil etc in a dumping trailer. Commercial insurance is 1400 and liability 1000. Oh and maybe I need some kind of restricted class A license (wait another 8 weeks) but that depends on who you talk to (but I bet the MTO/OPP types will say I do if I get pulled over). So I gave it up and got a job in a big air conditioned govy building. Maybe we could all work here and make 60k and have long lunches and go home early and get good pensions. Oh but then who is actually adding any value (like hauling away the dirt you don’t want and bringing you topsoil and services you do want). Well you just enjoy your govy services like getting a SIN card or being told that Health services are available near you or taking advantage of tax credits that you must pick out of mid air and MTO guys pulling over people working and the list goes on. Oh by the way, it should be apparent that you aren’t even paying for these services based on the projected Provincial and Federal deficits.

  • Hello Lou
    I am new owner and in the process of buying a straight truck. Process time to get a CVOR is almost 3-4 weeks and there is new law by which we have to give a written test as per new rules. Till the time my deal is not done i cannot apply for CVOR without license plate. Is there a possibility I can get a temporary # or if i can drive with applyed for CVOR?
    Please let me know fast and easy way to get CVOR

    • Hello Rogit. Im in the same situation as you right now, did you find a way to get your plates and cvor#. How did you get it ?

    • Your CVOR points will be affected by any ticket you get outside of Ontario that the ministry finds out about, some provinces and states share reporting with Ontario . One ticket on your CVOR is considered an excellent record, you need a few tickets and depending on what they are for. Unsafe load and logbook / circle check sheet carry a lot of weight so avoid them

  • My question is about rental companies. I work for a CMV rental company but we do not provide “Operators”. So my question is, do we require a CVOR since my company will not be “Operating” the vehicle? All of our customers will be required to “operate” the units under their own CVOR and we will not release the equipment unless a valid certificate is provided.

    Part 2: if we do not require a CVOR, how do we plate our vehicles?

  • If my 1 ton has a Gvrwv of 9200 and truck with equipment weighs 7200 . If I haul a tandem trailer that weighs 5000 pounds can I pay them to fir a weight increase or am I limited to 9200 pounds

  • Hey Guys.
    I have a pickup with my logo on the side I tow a 2300 lb chipper and have a 10420 lb chipper truck (empty) do I need a CVOR?
    I am in the process of applying but its 8 weeks before I can get it according to the MTO right now. 8 weeks and my season is over..

  • I have represented many fleet carriers and commercial drivers. It is important to have have expert knowledge regarding CVOR related charges, and how to strategically map out a defence for traffic tickets. I worked for the Government of Ontario, and have the experienced and proven track record to help you answer any question. Contact me at

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