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Commercial crackdowns in cottage country

BARRY'S BAY, Ont. - When Kevin Tucker first started making regular trips to this small resort community with his buddies it certainly didn't take long for them to get noticed."I've been coming up this...

BARRY’S BAY, Ont. – When Kevin Tucker first started making regular trips to this small resort community with his buddies it certainly didn’t take long for them to get noticed.

“I’ve been coming up this way for about a year,” he says. “Folks recognize my suburban now when I arrive.”

Maybe the SUV’s cherries are what make it stand out or it could be the fact Tucker goes by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Sr. Const. Tucker when he’s around Barry’s Bay. Oh, and the buddies he brings along, they’re from no less than three provincial ministries: transport, finance and environment.

Like many groups visiting the region, this team rolls into town for the fishing. However they give the walleye and trout a pass in favor of much larger prey – rigs. When Tucker hits a town it generally signals the start of a mini-blitz for the local trucking community.

In late July, Tucker and his crew conducted a four-day, four-town operation (Madawaska, Barry’s Bay, Deep River and Pembroke) and the results for the truckers of the near north were just a little off the national average. Exactly 130 commercial vehicles were stopped in the blitz and 33 were taken Out-Of-Service (OOS) – three had the plates removed on the spot.

But the fact the four-day crackdown only yielded an OOS rate of approximately 25 per cent – the national average in the last RoadCheck was about 20 per cent – is a bit of a pleasant surprise.

These smaller, more isolated communities have generally fallen through the cracks when it comes to vehicle enforcement efforts with most of the attention, and budgetary dollars, being directed to the south and the Hwy. 401 corridor specifically. Additionally, they are at the extreme western end of the OPP’s east region.

But the co-operative efforts between all four groups have made policing the region possible.

“It’s much easier for everyone to work together,” says Tucker. “We have quite an extensive blitz calendar … all over Eastern Ontario.”

(He declined to offer Truck News a peek, however, as it would obviously have made great copy for our readers.)

When the enforcement caravan rolls north, log haulers are typically – yet not exclusively – the truckers it encounters. Tucker says he goes to great lengths to treat the operators well and understands their equipment spends most of the time in the bush. It takes a beating and has the scars to prove it.

Leonard Trader, who owns an eight-truck haulage firm bearing his name, was one of the folks on hand as the inspectors were creeping around the local iron. The blitz snared three of his trucks on the second day and he watched, with the company’s mechanic, ready to make repairs as problems were discovered.

In fact, after each of his Kenworth tractors and belly-dump trailers was inspected, Tucker or another CVSA-approved officer went over their findings with the fleet owner and told him exactly what needed to be fixed. There was a little debate, but everyone was pleasant.

(You likely wouldn’t find this same level of friendly back-and-forth from either side if the blitz were happening in Mississauga, for example.)

Like the blackflies also hanging around the parking lot of the Paul Yakabulskie Community Centre, the inspectors seemed to be more of a nuisance to Trader than anything else.

“My equipment spends 90 per cent of its time in Algonquin (Park) … building gravel bush roads,” he explains. You could clearly see a why-did-we-have-to-be-working-in-town-today look on his face as he was handed a fine.

“Two cracks would have been alright, but there were three,” he bemoans.

The mechanic instantly crawls under the trailer and sets to welding a crack in the frame to get the rig back on the road earning money to pay the fine.

“I’m all for safety,” says Jim Armstrong, a driver out of Golden Lake with Nanjac Transportation Services. “But sometimes these get to be more about money than safety.”

It’s not hard to tell this is not the case with Tucker’s team, which largely trumpets the educational side of efforts like this one.

“A lot of the stuff we’ve stopped before has gotten better,” adds the senior constable.

Unfortunately they can’t be everywhere so it takes a while for the message to get around. Three weeks ago a similar random blitz on Hwy. 17 yielded an out-of-service rate of about 75 per cent. He stresses random means random as shiny new equipment is stopped too, not just the older stuff.

“And these were major defects,” he adds. “We certainly weren’t picking on them.”

In an effort to get a more permanent enforcement presence in trucking’s hinterland, increasingly OPP officers from the region have been taking the three-week course to earn their CVSA certification.

“It’s a good tool to have as a police officer,” says Const. Brad Burton, a newly minted truck cop working out of the Killaloe detachment. “There are a lot of legitimately good trucks around here … but some of the equipment has had a harder life than what a rig hauling general freight on the highway would typically face.”

Burton, who just completed his mandatory 30 inspections with a CVSA coach and is now free to go solo, expects he’ll start doing four to five Level 1s per month along with his regular duties. It’s hoped seeing someone crawl around a truck on a more frequent basis will serve as a reminder to run legal or face the consequences.

“This area hasn’t had much enforcement in the past,” he says.

Tell that to Trader. n

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1 Comment » for Commercial crackdowns in cottage country
  1. Tired of It says:

    Just another shameless cash grab in the name of safety. $310 fine for failing to update a commercial vehicle log book is a disgrace.

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