LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – Whether you’re an everyday motorist nabbed speeding down the highway, or a truck driver getting caught at a weigh scale inspection, it’s not fun getting pulled over by the authorities and issued a ticket.
Having to pay out of pocket, gaining demerit points and just the vexing feeling that you have been wronged and there must be someone else out there doing something much worse than you.
Even though chances are there are many people doing things worse than you, it doesn’t take away from the fact even minor things can put people’s safety at risk, which is precisely why in most cases the rules are there in black and white for a reason.
Russ Fikowski is a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE) inspector in Alberta’s southern region out of Lethbridge, Alta., and he told Truck West that driver knowledge and proper training is key to avoiding infractions.
“As the majority of commercial vehicle drivers and carriers operate safely and responsibly, only a small percentage of commercial vehicles are stopped either on the road or at the vehicle inspection stations,” Fikowski said. “When they are stopped, it is often due to an observed violation.”
Out-of-service safety items are the most common issues CVE officers find and issue fines for.
Fikowski said the main issues are brake systems, speeding, lighting, cargo securement and suspension components.
“Most of these offences would also result in the vehicle or driver being placed out of service and having to correct the defect prior to being allowed back on the road,” Fikowski said. It all comes down to safety.
“While some out of service defects may be fixed relatively easily,” Fikowski said, “if there is even the smallest potential that it could put the safety of the driver or others on the roadway at risk, we have to take that seriously.”
Fikowski admitted that CVE officers do not always issue a fine when an infraction is detected, and that on average, written warnings and verbal warnings are used around six times more often than tickets.
“When there is a high level of cooperation, understanding of the problem and the need to avoid similar issues in the future,” he said, “a warning may be more appropriate.”
Fikowski added that in order to avoid operating a truck hindered by a defect, a proper trip inspection is vital.
The inspection should be conducted in accordance with National Safe Code Standard 13, which states: ‘The daily vehicle trip inspection standard is intended to ensure early identification of vehicle problems and defects, and to prevent the operation of vehicles with conditions that are likely to cause or contribute to a collision or vehicle breakdown… The general objective of daily vehicle trip inspections is to promote an improved level of safety and compliance in commercial vehicles operating on the highway.’
“In order to complete a trip inspection, one must be trained on how to do so and what to look for,” Fikowski said. “The driver cannot be truly sure they are operating safely, lawfully and responsibly until they have completed a proper trip inspection. A properly conducted trip inspection is one of the most important tasks a driver will do in a day; it will help keep the driver and others safer on the highway, and it results in officers placing far fewer vehicles and drivers out of service.”
Unfortunately, Fikowski said that over the past few decades, things have not gotten any better when it comes to these types of citations.
Laws have changed over the past 30 years, but as Fikowski said, “The out-of-service rate has remained fairly constant in recent years as we continue to find serious safety defects during our inspections.”
But can drivers operating a truck with a defect simply avoid inspection stations?
According to Fikowski, the majority of drivers would not bypass a station, but acknowledges some would.
With strategically placed inspection stations on major corridors throughout Alberta that Fikowski said are not easy or convenient to get around, CVE does utilize a mobile unit to address any potential issue.
“If we find vehicles with serious defects and believe they were avoiding our inspections stations in an effort to avoid fixing these problems, they will be charged accordingly,” said Fikowski.
In the end, it’s about safety for CVE officers and education for drivers.
The CVE’s mission is to ensure public safety and protect Alberta’s roadways from damage. Part of that mission is to help drivers who have questions about laws and requirements pertaining to commercial vehicles.
“I believe that knowing what the laws and requirements are along with conducting thorough trip inspections,” said Fikowski, “will lessen a driver’s anxiety upon entering a vehicle inspection station or being inspected on the highway.”
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