TORONTO, Ont. - The Indian Trucking Association (ITA) is an example of an organization that's stronger than the sum of its parts. Founded a little over a year ago, the ITA holds regular information an...
A MATTER OF INCHES: MTO officer Bill Vangou demonstrates how inspection officers measure wheelbase length.
TORONTO, Ont. –The Indian Trucking Association (ITA) is an example of an organization that’s stronger than the sum of its parts. Founded a little over a year ago, the ITA holds regular information and education seminars on a bi-monthly basis. The meeting I attended in Mississauga on March 28 began with chai tea and vegetarian snacks served at an elegant banquet hall, followed by presentations from the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
About 50 people, including drivers and truck fleet owners, viewed PowerPoint presentations from the government agencies. CBSA spokespersons explained border crossing procedures and programs including FAST, C-TPAT and NEXUS. Some discussion was given to the enhanced drivers licences (EDLs) being introduced by several provinces. As of June 1, all Canadian visitors to the US will require passports, including truck drivers. The high-tech EDLs will contain a microchip, and are being touted as a cheaper alternative to passports.
Next, MTO officer Sgt. Shaun Dotzko discussed various aspects of carrier enforcement, covering everything from the new Ontario speed limiter law, to hours-of-service to how to challenge a ticket. According to Dotzko, you have 15 days to appeal a citation and you should go through the chain of command, starting with the regulatory officer, to the enforcement supervisor and finally the enforcement coordinator.
Dotzko also listed the five main reasons for a vehicle being taken out-of-service: load security; brake adjustment; air supply; lighting systems; or parking brakes. The sergeant made the case that increased enforcement does enhance public safety, citing 81.9% compliance levels in a recent blitz, and the fact that wheel-off incidents have decreased 70% in 10 years (215 wheel-offs in 1997 as compared to 70 in 2007).
Alf Brown, a senior supervisor from the MTO’s head office in St. Catharines, explained the reason for the newly-introduced, one-time $100 CVOR fee.
“We have a huge database of 140,000 CVORs and we have no way of knowing which ones are active,” he said.
The seminar moved outside for the last portion where a big Kenworth was hooked up to a three-axle live-bottom trailer. Many of the attendees were involved in aggregate hauling so there was keen interest as MTO officers William Vangou and Sgt. Dotzko took a steel tape and measured the trailer. Vangou explained that enforcement officers calculate axle weight, gross weight and wheelbase length and take the lowest amount into consideration when determining overweight infractions.
“If you’re overweight at the pit scale, go and dump your load,” said Vangou. “If the pit operator refuses to reload you, call the MTO,” he added.
But the problem is more complicated, according to one owner of four gravel trucks who didn’t want his name used.
“The problem starts at the pit,” he said. “The guy loads you so you’re too heavy. And when we run the belt (on the walking floor trailer) the load moves to the back and the load is uneven. So the pit scale shows that your gross is okay but when you get to the MTO you’re overweight on the back axles.”
According to this owner, drivers have been told to shovel gravel by hand from one axle to another. This is galling to some drivers and owners because they have nothing to do with the loading.
“In most cases, the driver is instructed to sit in the cab of the truck while being loaded,” said ITA president Nachhattar Chohan. And he thinks some loaders’ scales may be inaccurate.
“The scale company will tell you that you have 40,000 on-board while the weight is actually 48,000. It’s not just having to shovel loads by hand, lots of people are complaining about axle weight issues.”
According to Chohan, the ITA and MTO have been holding meetings about their common concerns for the last year. And judging by the large contingent of four MTO officers at the seminar, they must be getting heard.
“We are fighting for the rights of all truck drivers, not just ones from the Indian community,” he told me.
Depending on who you talk to, the ITA has 400-700 members. Membership is free and open to anyone, although the group is thinking about instituting a fee in the near future. Executive director Jatinder Jaswal sees strength in numbers. He told me he is trying to negotiate group rates on fuel and insurance, among other things.
The ITA is also holding its second annual Great Canadian Indian Truck Show at the Powerade Centre in Brampton, Ont. on Aug. 8. The event features a show’n’shine, music and entertainment and Indian food. ITA director Najib Iqbal is expecting a good turnout. “Despite the fact that there’s a recession, we’re making it twice as big as last year.”