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Face time

In my previous column, the basic sanction structure for non-compliance was discussed, leading up to the point where the Ontario Ministry of Transportation requests a compliance interview. An interview...

In my previous column, the basic sanction structure for non-compliance was discussed, leading up to the point where the Ontario Ministry of Transportation requests a compliance interview. An interview can be requested when the operator reaches an overall 65% of compliance threshold, as can a facility audit. But where a facility audit has not been conducted, the interview stage is at 80% of threshold.

This is often the first contact that the operator has had with the Ministry in a face-to-face session other than a previous audit. And while the pending interview can seem intimidating, it is the combination of attitude and having your ducks in order which will make for a generally “easy going” approach. It can also be a positive learning experience for the operator. Remember, the MTO personnel present during these sit-downs have hundreds of them under their belts, giving you the advantage of drawing on their experience and how other operators have dealt effectively with compliance issues and problems.

The interview process does have a common structure. Basic information is verified along with an overview of the operation of the company. It is at this stage of the interview where questions will be asked about fleet size in order to determine accuracy. And as part of this component, you will be asked to verify fleet mileage numbers, being total kilometres separated by those in and out of province. This is a very important part of the entire CVOR system. Clearly it makes sense that in advance of the interview you do your own detailed analysis.

You will also be apprised of prior interventions, including previous warning letters, interviews, sanction hearings and any facility audit that has taken place. There is obviously a greater level of concern where it may be apparent that prior interventions have not worked to improve compliance.

If this is the case, be prepared for some tough questions as to why the overall rate has deteriorated, particularly where there were prior undertakings given. All too often, the prior promises made were not adhered to and the Ministry does keep a record of what undertakings were in fact given.

There is a particular interest as well at the interview stage regarding vehicle accidents. The Ministry will lay out what they consider “accidents of concern;” ones where there was an identified driver impropriety and where a driver was charged. The concern is obviously greater where the accident involves an injury or fatality. It is beneficial that the operator bring to the interview a file associated with accidents, and preferably a file that shows a review/analysis along with any driver retraining, discipline, etc. The Ministry also likes to hear that accidents are being reviewed by the operator from a preventability aspect rather than simply attributed fault. And if you have not to date looked at preventability factors, then it will make sense to incorporate this approach into your post-accident procedures as one of your undertakings for improvement.

Convictions and vehicle inspections are also assessed. Apart from numbers, the focus again is on problem areas. What is the nature of the convictions? Are they company – or driver-related, and is there a high incidence of a certain type of conviction? It has been our experience that there is a particular interest where there is an inordinate number of driver moving violations, which tends to indicate other problems relating to driver control.

There are a surprising number of times where carriers who don’t regularly access their CVOR records are unaware of the number of driver convictions such as speeding because the drivers just pay the fines without telling the operator. But save and except for the isolated incident, this in itself is evident of a lack of control, not setting clear driver policies associated with reporting events, and infrequent access of the CVOR abstract.

With vehicle inspections, the first concern of the Ministry will be whether the out-of-service rate is higher than the provincial average, and second what is the nature of the defects found. All defective equipment is a concern but there is a strong emphasis on braking systems, wheels and tires, and front-end problems.

The bottom line is to have a clear plan as to how the problem areas are going to be corrected. Undertakings have to be realistic and each problem area specifically addressed. Further, a timeline for implementation is critical as the Ministry expects significant change to the record within a six-month period.

Blair Gough is a consultant to the trucking industry and can be reached at 905-689-2727.

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