HALIFAX, N.S. - The conservative government of Nova Scotia may downsize its commercial-vehicle inspection operations by replacing at least some of its inspectors with RCMP constables."Right now this i...
EXTINCT: Nova Scotia may replace its inspection officers with the RCMP.
HALIFAX, N.S. – The conservative government of Nova Scotia may downsize its commercial-vehicle inspection operations by replacing at least some of its inspectors with RCMP constables.
“Right now this is a proposal that we’re looking at as part of our planning for this year’s budget,” explains Kevin Finch, a spokesman for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the department which oversees the inspectors.
“There hasn’t been a decision made at this stage,” he says. “We’re looking at cost-effectiveness, with the realization that we have to ensure that the safety of our highway system is maintained, and the safety of all our road users and all the freight carriers in the province.”
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, like all branches of Nova Scotia government, has been told to help cut the province’s $268 million deficit by 2003.
That is the crux of the problem, says Finch. The goal now is to see if the solution includes effectively outsourcing the inspection service.
“I don’t know when it would go into effect,” and there’s been no recommendation made to cabinet yet, Finch adds. “It’s just something the department’s looking at – kicking the tires I guess.”
The Nova Scotia Government Employees Union (NSGEU) says a total of 32 inspectors check commercial vehicles, split between scales and mobile units. The union says the government plans to replace them all with RCMP constables, a point which Finch says is “hard to talk to.”
“We just got wind of the fact that some of the guys on the job were actually told about six or eight weeks ago that they’d be finished in June,” says Jane Wright, a NSGEU spokeswoman.
“There are 32 compliance officers right now, they’re going to reduce it to 12 RCMP to cover the road.”
The union can’t understand the government’s reason for downsizing the inspection service. According to its numbers, the inspectors, between fines and licensing operations, brought in $2.3 million in revenue for the province in 1999-2000. Wright notes this dropped from $4.05 million in 1996-97 – before the province previously slashed the number of commercial-vehicle inspections.
“And that’s certainly what we’re arguing,” Wright says. “These guys have been doing this a long time, they’re all certified.”
While the mechanics of a truck are complicated – almost as complicated as the laws governing the trucking industry – Finch insists the constables would be brought up to the same knowledge level as the inspection officials.
“The officers on the road would likely receive some training, special things to look for with truckers, essentially. The benefit for us is we’d have far more officers out in the field, because there are a lot more Mounties out on the road then compliance officers,” he emphasizes. “Plus they’d work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Dave Roberts, president of the Trucking Association of Nova Scotia, is wary of the move.
“Is this going to be a cost-saving measure, or is this going to be a pain-in-the-butt for truck drivers?” he muses. “(The government officials) say they’re not trying to compromise dollars with safety, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
In Roberts’ mind the dollars certainly seem to be first, followed closely by safety in second.
“It concerns me that there may not be the qualified enforcement officers,” says Ralph Boyd, president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association. “The RCMP hasn’t, in our part of the country, been very much involved in commercial-vehicle enforcement.”
Arguing that there aren’t enough resources targeted towards enforcement, Boyd is concerned Nova Scotia may cause a widespread rollback of standards. “A lot of our members have invested hundreds of thousands – and millions – of dollars,” Boyd insists, “in putting the necessary systems in place.”
“If all my members are receiving enforcement, and nobody else is … they’re going to have a long fight,” blasts Boyd. n