Newfoundland auditor general says truckers evading inspections

by Sonia Straface

ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. — After reviewing how Newfoundland and Labrador enforces its commercial trucking laws, auditor general Terry Paddon revealed in his 2016 report that he believes there are a number of problems in the industry, especially with the way trucks are inspected.

Though Paddon acknowledged that the industry does have inspection and enforcement laws in place, he said they need to be improved.

“Commercial vehicles are able to avoid being inspected and/or weighed as a result of the existence of alternate routes, the direction of fixed weigh scale stations, predictable hours of operation, social media sites and mobile applications,” the extensive report reads.

Specifically, Paddon pointed to the Foxtrap scales, claiming that truck drivers could simply bypass them through CBS. He added that because scales only operate five days a week, truck drivers working weekends are easily avoiding getting weighed.

And some carriers in the province aren’t a fan of his assessment, tabled in November, and are saying it is not a fair picture of what is actually going on in the province.

“To me, he’s sending the wrong message,” said Barry Warren, president of Dooley’s Trucking in Gander, Nfld. “The message is truckers are doing this on a regular basis. I don’t believe that is the case. He’s giving the impression there’s truckers out there that are doing these bad things to avoid the scales. I don’t think that’s the case. I think that’s isolated. These drivers are professionals and most are tied to time-sensitive loads. So, to go down other routes to avoid the scales…that’s going to take more time for them to do.”

Warren also disagreed with the auditor general’s take on how truck drivers use social media to avoid the scales.

The report reads: “Social media and mobile applications are used by commercial vehicle operators to determine if a fixed station is open or closed, the most common hours of operation, if portable scales are in operation and if HEOs are performing inspections.”

“The impression that he’s giving is that these guys are out there on social media and trucks are parked because the scales are open…you get the impression that that’s happening on a regular basis. And that’s not the case. They’re not going to go 30, 40, 50 miles out of their way just to sidestep the scales,” Warren said. “You’re dealing with professional drivers…to make an implication that these drivers are out there to break the law and sidestep the rules, I don’t think that is the case.”

On the other hand, some trucking business owners are happy to see the inefficiencies of the province pointed out. Like Gerry Dowden, president of Newfoundland-based East Can Transport.

“The report has identified inefficiencies but also they’ve outlined how to fix them, so based on that, it looked like we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “The only thing that disturbs me I guess is the reference to drivers getting around scales. Because you know, those kinds of routes exist everywhere to some degree. And it’s the design and location of scales that they need to fix.”

APTA leader Jean-Marc Picard held a similar opinion on the matter.

“At the end of the day, the carriers have to have guidelines,” he said. “For the most part companies are very organized in terms of safety and equipment. So, if they’re overweight, that’s a different story. Obviously, there’s scales they can bypass. At the end of the day the government in Newfoundland have to do what they have to do in order to catch them. I think we’re all for making the province’s roads safe.”

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