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Caught in the Act

QUEBEC CITY, Que. - Since July 1999, Act 430's carrier rating system has identified thousands of trucking companies with repeated or serious violations.The consequences have ranged from receiving a si...


LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAVE: Pre-trip inspections, such as the one demonstrated here by student driver Benoit Brissette to a Societe de L'Assurance Automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) examiner, are mandatory under Act 430. The Commission des transports de Quebec has ordered several trucking companies to attend training courses in pre-trip inspections. (Photo by Carroll McCormick)
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAVE: Pre-trip inspections, such as the one demonstrated here by student driver Benoit Brissette to a Societe de L'Assurance Automobile du Quebec (SAAQ) examiner, are mandatory under Act 430. The Commission des transports de Quebec has ordered several trucking companies to attend training courses in pre-trip inspections. (Photo by Carroll McCormick)

QUEBEC CITY, Que. – Since July 1999, Act 430’s carrier rating system has identified thousands of trucking companies with repeated or serious violations.

The consequences have ranged from receiving a single warning letter to being forced to cease trucking operations altogether.

“We sent 3,500 first warning letters, 878 second warning letters and sent 374 files to the Commission des transports de Quebec (CTQ),” from July 1999 to Feb. 28, of this year says Guy Mailhot, a senior advisor to the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ).

In some cases files were returned to the SAAQ.

In a summary of decisions against trucking companies released by the CTQ this April though, 51 companies are listed as having had their “satisfactory” rating downgraded to “conditional.”

Additionally, another 21 had their rating downgraded to “unsatisfactory.”

The evaluation rating mechanism evaluates the behavior of owners and operators and spells out exactly how violations will be weighted.

It allows SAAQ to track repeat violators and, through the CTQ, impose conditions or operating restrictions or even out and out shut down companies with behavior that is perceived as too dangerous to public safety.

The evaluation rating mechanism is fairly complex, but the bottom line is that after Bill 430 became law in June 1998, companies with clean dossiers were given “satisfactory” ratings under the rating mechanism system.

In fact, only 122 companies in Quebec started life under Bill 430 with “conditional” ratings.

Every type of infraction possible is worth a certain number of points under the rating mechanism.

As a company commits infractions and accumulates points, SAAQ sends it a first, then a second warning letter.

If a company accumulates too many points, its dossier is sent to the CTQ for review.

The CTQ can downgrade a company’s rating to “conditional” or “unsatisfactory” for whatever length of time it decides is appropriate.

The CTQ has issued 16 press releases this year in which company infractions and CTQ judgements against them are reported in detail.

The companies’ revised ratings, which include several “unsatisfactory” ratings, were also made public.

One company, for example, collected 15 infractions under the Highway Safety Code and its drivers were implicated in three accidents involving only slight injuries.

Its rating was downgraded to “conditional” and the CTQ has required it to adopt management procedures to ensure proper operation.

These measures included ensuring pre-trip inspections are carried out; taking training courses in pre-trip inspections, Hours of Service and installing governors; and limiting all of the company’s trucks to a top cruising speed of 100km/h.

A company which received a rating change to “unsatisfactory” had its registration (without which it cannot operate as a trucking company) withdrawn for five years.

Publicizing poor company practices is having a powerful effect on the province’s fleet’s behavior, says Mailhot.

“Nobody wants to be known as an unsafe carrier. There is an incredible motivation to comply,” he says.

“A survey we conducted indicates that a lot of people are concerned with their dossiers.”

He explains that 87 per cent of the people surveyed believe that keeping a file on every carrier – and sending it a letter if its performance deteriorates – changes the company’s behavior and results in a positive safety improvement.

“The evaluation policy is working as we had hoped. A lot of people are worried about their files. A lot of people want to see their files,” he adds.

“Up to now there is nothing that shows the rating system is unfair. No complaint has been heard from the industry about (any inequity) in the system. Generally speaking, the things put in the Act 430 have been met in a favorable manner.”

Act 430 and the evaluation rating mechanism, are themselves now under review, says Mailhot.

“We are working on two different projects: one, evaluating how Act 430 is being put into place. The Minister of Transport must make a report to the government by June 20, 2001 on whether to maintain or modify the Act,” he explains.

“Two, a revision of our evaluation policy.”

He explains that on July 1, 1999, a provision was put into place that allowed for a review of the policy and how the actions of evaluating and processing the carriers is handled.

“We started this work in December 2000 and it will be ongoing until this October. This is a big issue,” explains Mailhot. “We are doing it with the CTQ, Transports Quebec and transportation section policy people. This work will be finished in October.”

He stresses, however, that there will be a consultation period following the evaluation and any changes to the way 430 is policy would be adopted by about January 2002. n


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