KING CITY, Ont. –Words like ‘collaborative,’ ‘interesting,’ ‘flexible’ and ‘excellent’ may seem out of place sharing a sentence with the term ‘MTO Facility Audit.’
After all, an impending MTO facility audit can be the stuff of sleepless nights or worse, nightmares. But a new and improved facility audit process met with nothing but compliments from a panel of private fleet managers who shared their experiences at the Private Motor Truck Council’s (PMTC) annual conference in June.
First, the MTO’s Frank Fabian explained the reasons behind some of the changes to the facility audit program.
“Hours-of-service changed dramatically over the last couple of years as well as the commercial motor vehicle inspection programs, pre-trip requirements and record-keeping. We really needed an audit to address those issues and any other issues that may come down the pipe in the next number of years,” he explained.
The new audit provides more flexibility in some instances and a broader scope of profile elements in others. One improvement is some added flexibility when auditing driver hours-of-service. Previously, a one-hour violation wiped out all of a driver’s points.
“But what happens to the guy who has been bang-on perfect for 30 days of the month but his watch stops one day and he loses an hour-and-a-half? In the old audit, we’d score that driver a zero. It was harsh and it was punitive. We needed something to address that issue,” Fabian said. Now, a driver has some leeway; 10% of his monthly logged hours to be exact. So a driver who logged 250 hours in a month can still pass the audit even with a 25-hour margin of error.
On the other hand, the new audit now includes a third profile element, placing fleets under additional scrutiny. Previously, the auditor would examine only hours-of-service and vehicle maintenance. The new audit adds a third category: Qualifications, Records and Reporting. For instance, the auditor will be checking to ensure drivers hold a valid licence of the appropriate class, that driver abstracts are up to date and that the operator has maintained a current record of all violations and accidents.
“We encourage you to keep abstracts and collision records, keep them up to date, keep on top of those records and make sure your drivers report any convictions,” advised Fabian.
Several PMTC member fleets have already undergone an MTO facility audit under the new criteria and were on-hand to share their experiences. For the most part, all agreed the new audit process was an improvement.
“The biggest difference was, they were much more up-front with explanations of how the process would work,” said Grant Nixon of Securit, which runs about 110 straight trucks. “Rather than ‘Go away, we’ll call you when we want you,’ it was more of a collaborative effort. Much more of a partnership than it was in the past.”
Shari Lagala of Patene Building Supplies agreed. She said they had an “excellent auditor” with a “good demeanour” who took the time to answer all her questions during a four-hour consultation and numerous phone calls.
“The first four hours was them explaining what they were looking for, what the process involves,” she recalled, “to make sure you understand why you’re giving them this information and why they need this information.”
Mike Millian, fleet manager with Hensall District Co-operative, said auditors always gave him a chance to discuss any findings and offer an explanation. His only complaint was that it took six to eight weeks to receive the results and he wishes the auditor was more accessible by phone.
Dennis Shantz of Home Hardware Stores also said the auditors gave him a chance to explain any discrepancies that were discovered.
In terms of preparation, being organized is key, the panelists agreed. Home Hardware’s Shantz suggested conducting mock audits to prepare for the real thing. His company conducts two such mock audits per year. Shantz also says to “be prepared to have somebody there that can work with the auditor,” and help them find required paperwork.
Millian’s advice is to “be cooperative. If you’re going to try to lie to them, BS them -you’re not going to catch these guys.”
“Meticulous record-keeping” and frequent internal audits are the key to success, according to Securit’s Nixon. And Lagala suggested fleets “treat every day like you’re being audited.”
The MTO’s Fabian said the new facility audit procedure is still a work in progress. The department is in the process of conducting a 12-month review and will continue to update the procedures. But in the meantime, he said the new facility audit is not something carriers should fear.
“Operators that currently have a safety program, a proactive vehicle program that includes communication between the driver and the operator, who monitor hours-of-service and all that good stuff, are not going to have a problem with this audit,” he said. “This audit is not that difficult to pass.”