New CVOR system is a cut above the past

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I have to hand it to the trucking industry and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation for developing the new and improved CVOR (Commercial Vehicle Operating Record) and its associated carrier abstract. The way the resulting carrier record works – for the most part – is a cut well above the older system.

It is more meaningful, readable and understandable. The record is one of the outcomes of the Target ’97 industry-government task force that dealt with a wide range of safety-related matters, and the concerns expressed on both sides of the table.

For example, the industry was bothered that accidents attracted CVOR points even when they were not the fault of the carrier or driver. And the industry held that non-safety related convictions should not result in points, either. On both counts, changes now equate to zero points. Charges for being less than 2,000 kg overweight, for example, are not “pointable” under the new system.

But the core concept behind the system hasn’t changed. The CVOR was designed to monitor carrier safety performance in Ontario, placing responsibility upon both carriers and drivers for their actions. To that end, points are assigned for accidents, convictions and detentions.

The accumulated information in the form of a carrier abstract provides information to the public about the safety performance of the operator. And don’t forget that it also serves as a means by which other carriers and shippers can assess performance. When a carrier reaches certain predetermined “thresholds”, actions can include warning letters, interviews, a facility audit or a sanction.

Perhaps the most significant change is that the CVOR is now a major component of a new carrier rating system. In fact, in the absence of a facility audit, it serves as the base for a rating. Because of that, it is more important than ever to rigorously monitor key elements of the CVOR, convictions, accidents and detentions. Safety ratings are not new to the industry – at least not to that segment that has operated in the U.S., where ratings have been in place for years. But frankly, I like the fact that Ontario’s system is made more meaningful than the U.S. model, largely because of its association to the CVOR system.

A safety rating is an “equalizer” of sorts. It is very public, accessible by anyone who wishes to know the status of a carrier, or to a shipper who would like to know whether its supplier is considered safe. Insurance companies and brokers have started to pay more attention to the CVOR record as well, when determining the risk factors associated with a carrier, and the level of insurance premiums to assess. And it’s one more important reason to pay attention to your record, given that insurance costs are one of the highest (and controllable) variable costs that a company faces.

I’m familiar with one case in which a carrier that has already been paying relatively high premiums now faces being moved into the insurance facility. Its CVOR record confirmed what the insurance company suspected – that the carrier’s record had deteriorated over a period of being on a “monitor status”. Coincidentally, about the same time that it was informed about the insurance company’s concerns, the MTO contacted the carrier about its own concerns related to safety performance.

There is plenty of new information available on a CVOR abstract. From a safety rating perspective, a key concern should be your violation rate versus the safety rating threshold of 100 per cent. If you stay under 35 per cent of the threshold, the ministry will not contact you with so much as a warning letter. But as soon as you hit that number, a letter is forwarded, warning of unacceptable compliance. If you are between 35 and 65 per cent, you will be rated as “satisfactory” or “satisfactory – unaudited”.

Be careful not to be satisfied if your CVOR falls well within this range. Remember that a poor audit score can result in a conditional rating despite a good track record on the CVOR.

Between 66 and 79 per cent of the threshold, an interview and/or facility audit will be scheduled. At best, the carrier will be assigned a “conditional” safety rating.

Of course, the interventions get worse as you move up the scale, to the 100 per cent mark when you can expect a suspension or cancellation.

What I particularly like about the new record is that it shows all vehicle inspections and not just detentions. And the carrier’s out-of-service rate is now cited alongside the provincial out-of-service rate for the prior fiscal year. (Right now, that rate is 35.3 per cent for the previous fiscal year.) Obviously, you want to be below that. Hopefully well below.

Having viewed three or four dozen of the new CVOR records since they became available, I can perhaps suggest one modification: the province should also offer a realistic look at the type of operation that’s involved in the record.

After all, it’s not unlike how the insurance industry assesses risk. n

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

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