MILTON, Ont. – One of the easiest ways to ensure your CVOR stays clean is to always carry a valid CVOR certificate in the truck. But that seemingly simple requirement is also one of the biggest pitfalls facing fleets who unexpectedly accrue points.
Heather Devine, a partner with law firm Isaacs & Co., told a gathering put on by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) this week, that many fleets fail to update their CVOR certificates when doing a reorganization. If the name of the business or ownership has changed and the CVOR certificate has not been updated, it can be considered a fictitious, altered or fraudulent CVOR certificate – and that’s worth three points against a CVOR. She suggested carriers compare the company name on their CVOR certificates to the one that’s legally registered with the province.
Another common mistake is forgetting to renew CVORs on time, since the expiration date was just recently applied. Devine suggests fleets create checklists and assign responsibility for CVOR oversight to an employee. The checklists are important, as they allow a replacement employee to easily take over when the person responsible for CVOR management resigns or is away.
“I’m a big fan of checklists,” Devine said. It should include things like checking CVOR expiration dates and ensuring the accuracy of violation reports. Mike Millian, PMTC president, pointed out in his previous life as a fleet manager he often found points that were mistakenly assigned to his fleet. Allowing inaccuracies to remain affects a fleet’s public image as its carrier safety rating (CSR) is posted for the world to see. And this can be especially troublesome later if a carrier is involved in a major incident and lawyers get involved.
“These are the kinds of things plaintiff counsels’ are going to look at when going to get fodder to make a claim,” Devine warned. “Is your CSR that’s available to the public accurate? Go take a look. It might be inaccurate – these things happen.”
Devine also said fleets should understand their CVOR violation rate threshold, the maximum violation rate deemed acceptable for that specific operator. It is different for each fleet and is based on the number of vehicles and drivers within the fleet and the number of kilometers they travel.
Knowing the maximum threshold helps fleets decide if and when to dispute charges.
“You want to worry more about the CVOR points than the potential financial fine,” Devine advised.
Carriers should have a plan in place that begins with how drivers respond to receiving a fine.
“You should be training drivers to understand, without doubt, exactly who they’re supposed to call when they get a ticket,” Devine said. “A phone number should be given to them, not in a way that they’re scared to make that call. That’s very unhelpful to you. You want to make sure whoever it is they call is someone they feel is non-threatening enough to start the process to get the information to you, so you can start your cost-benefit analysis.”
Drivers should be instructed to never pay the fine on their own in hopes the fleet doesn’t find out about it. Paying the ticket is an admission of guilt and can lead to CVOR points that may have been avoidable by challenging the ticket.
“You need to warn them you will help them deal with the ticket,” Devine suggested.
When receiving a ticket, drivers must cooperate with and be respectful of police. They must also remember anything they say at the scene – including on a call to the office if police are present – can be used as evidence. The person at the office responsible for taking post-accident calls should record the conversation with the driver. They too should have a checklist containing a set list of questions to ask, such as: Where are you? Can the truck leave? What is the offense? What does the driver see?
Drivers should take notes as well, including the date and time of the offense, the name of the officer and the names of any independent witnesses. Fleet managers must not dispense legal advice to their driver, she added, noting the proper course of action for the fleet may not be in the best interests of the driver.
Fleets that have received a ticket must decide between: paying the fine and accepting the points; offering an explanation that could lead to a lesser charge; or going to trial to fight it. In more serious charges, Devine said her firm will often represent the carrier and then hire a second lawyer to represent the driver.
“We retain a very good lawyer for the driver and we pay that lawyer,” she explained. “Because we are paying those legal fees, the company is a participant in the defense and paying the legal bills.”
Alternatively, Devine added, the driver may go to trial unrepresented or with an inadequate lawyer, evidence may be poorly presented or inaccurate and this will impact how the carrier itself is judged. Also, a carrier can subsequently be charged with a different – and sometimes more serious– offense, even after the driver has plead guilty. She also warned against terminating a driver who has been in a serious incident for the same reasons.
“You definitely don’t want to terminate your driver until you’ve dealt with that charge,” she said.
Devine’s presentation was part of the latest in a series of seminars the PMTC has hosted this year for members. It also included a presentation on the effective use of social media.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies