by John G. Smith

OTTAWA, Ont. – Canada’s trucks recorded a 23 per cent out-of-service rate during the annual Roadcheck inspection blitz from June 6 to 8, with 1,580 trucks and 142 drivers cited for defects or violations.

There were 11,794 vehicles pulled over for inspections during the campaign, of which 4,856 had valid Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) decals and were not re-inspected. The remaining 6,938 vehicles and drivers were subjected to the alliance’s most-thorough, Level 1 inspections.

While brake problems continue to dominate the results of the inspection blitz, the percentage of brake-related defects appears to be declining. Where they have accounted for more than half of the out of service rate in past years, numbers are now expected to be around 45 per cent. (Ontario’s brake-related numbers had not been crunched at press time.)

“I think we’re beginning to have an impact with Operation Air Brake,” says Peter Hurst, president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance region that covers Canada. The enforcement and education program is in its third year.

As for the overall numbers holding steady, “I think it shows that the work we’re doing out there in terms of enforcement and general compliance is paying off,” Hurst adds. “At least they didn’t go up.”

“We’re certainly pleased with the direction these numbers are going. We want to continue to push these numbers down,” says Rolf Vanderzwaag, who oversees technical issues for the Ontario Trucking Association.

In addition to Operation Air Brake, Ontario now requires the certification of any trucker who wants to adjust brakes within the province. And all these initiatives are making a difference, he says.

Provincial results are also more comparable than they have ever been. While Nova Scotia numbers are tabulated in the latest set of figures, different inspection criteria in 1999 caused the province’s numbers to be disregarded altogether.

“I noticed how close they are,” Hurst says of the latest results, “and that’s an indication of our efforts to develop a Canadian CVSA training package and getting everyone on the same page in terms of inspections.”

“That’s evidence of the efforts on the part of the jurisdictions to ensure their people are trained to the CVSA standard, that they are applying the criteria on a more consistent basis,” Vanderzwaag agrees. “The better trained officers are, the more meaningful their work becomes and the more consistent it becomes. But one of the things they discovered in doing the higher level of training is that there were discrepancies, there were inconsistencies in how they applied the rules.”

Operation Air Brake will be studied more closely during the North American Brake Safety Conference to be held in Toronto from Sept. 15 to 16, while at least one other publicized brake blitz will be held in the first week of the month.

This year, some provinces opted for 48-hour inspection campaigns rather than the traditional 72-hour blitz conducted in jurisdictions such as Ontario.

“But the biggest difference this year is, for the first time since 1996, the U.S. states are coming back to Roadcheck from International Highway Transportation Safety Week,” Hurst says. “That’s fairly significant.”

While Roadcheck is a focus of enforcement efforts, the approach in the U.S. had shifted to more of a driver appreciation week and education campaign. Early last year, it looked like Canada would adopt the U.S. approach, but officials changed their mind last winter, Hurst says. n

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