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Rules Of The Road

TORONTO, Ont. - Truckers travelling through the provincial jurisdictions of Ontario and Quebec, and the states of New York and Michigan, can be subject to different rules and regulations in terms of w...

TORONTO, Ont. –Truckers travelling through the provincial jurisdictions of Ontario and Quebec, and the states of New York and Michigan, can be subject to different rules and regulations in terms of what could get them pulled over by law enforcement.

Police and ministry enforcement officers work with the objective to reduce collisions and fatalities on the roads, and to investigate motor vehicle safety complaints.

At the Ontario Trucking Association’s annual convention, representatives from on-road enforcement agencies from these four jurisdictions were out in full uniform, if not to inspire fear, at least to get the word out to truckers and trucking companies about behaviour and adherence to the laws of the road.

Top five OOS defects

According to Shaun Dotzko, enforcement supervisor, Ontario Ministry of Transportation, while the province of Ontario is considered to have some of the safest roads in North America, there are still many out-of-service defects he consistently sees on commercial vehicles, the top five of which are: load security; brakes and brake adjustment; damaged air supply lines; non-working lighting systems; and inoperative parking brakes.

But, he noted, between 1990 and 2004, the number of large trucks in Ontario grew by some 50%, and total fatal collisions involving large trucks decreased by 20%. Ontario’s compliance rate during Road Check 2007 was 81.9% versus just 56.7% in 1995, a significant improvement, said Dotzko.

To improve on these numbers, operators and companies should ensure that a pre-trip inspection has been conducted, establish safety and maintenance programs, and be sure to submit their reports.

Adrian Perry of the Ontario Provincial Police’s Traffic Support Unit is involved in commercial vehicle inspections and collision reconstruction. He said that among the top safety concerns he sees are: speeds that are too fast for conditions; wheel-offs; loose seals and fasteners; detached parts and components; driver fatigue; and load security.

New legislation in Ontario that would restrict the use of handheld devices while driving may offer some room for improvement, noted Perry.

Rules to observe in ‘la belle province’

Arnold Yetman, media spokesperson and compliance officer with Quebec’s Societe de l’Assurance Automobile, stressed that there are several differences in road rules and regulations in Quebec that could cause problems for operators heading to that province. Quebec has a law against the use of handheld cells while driving, no tinted windows are permitted, and wide load signs are also not permitted.

“Instead you need a D-sign in white and red,” said Yetman.

Certain vehicle configurations, for example, are also illegal in Quebec.

“A lot of vehicles don’t adhere to the hangover rules. You can apply and request a special permit from the Ministry of Transportation to avoid impoundment,” he added.

Effective April 2008 in Quebec, harsher penalties and increased fines went into place to help deter speeding. The Quebec government is also phasing in new penalties that will see first time excessive speeders have an immediate suspension of their driver’s licence for seven days.

Depending on the speed limit in the zone where you committed the offence, you could face the immediate suspension of your driver’s licence for 30 or 60 days, and immediate seizure and impoundment of the vehicle. As of Sept. 1, 2009, a new legal definition of heavy vehicle will come into effect in Quebec. Effective on that date, motorized vehicles and trailers with a gross weight rating of 4,500 kg or more will be considered heavy vehicles, said Yetman.

Ontario’s ‘border states’

According to Sgt. Edmund Schramm, with the New York State Police’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established a safety goal that aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries that result from truck and motor coach related crashes by 50% by 2010.

This FMCSA 2010 goal translates into approximately 2,500 lives saved and 65,000 injuries prevented each year. The agency’s Research and Technology Program consists of five program areas that will target driver safety performance, commercial vehicle safety performance, carrier compliance and safety, safety systems and technologies, and crosscutting safety initiatives.

Schramm noted that in New York the top safety concerns also center on load securement, logbook infractions, brake adjustment issues and hours-of-service confusion.

“We want to reduce any contributing factor that a commercial driver may have in a collision,” said Schramm.

Another major concern is the bottleneck of traffic passing through the Buffalo area, originating at the US-Canada border.

While the state of New York won’t confiscate drivers’ licences, if an Ontario driver receives a citation and does not report it or submit it, the driver can lose driving privileges in Ontario thanks to a reciprocity agreement with the state, said Schramm.

In the state of Michigan, Capt. Robert Powers, commanding officer with the Michigan State Police Traffic Safety Division, said that there is going to be less border grant funding in 2009, which will result in somewhat less enforcement activity on the corridors leading to the US-Canada border. The state has produced a comprehensive Border Crossing Guide for commercial truck drivers, available in English, French and Spanish, which provides tips, contacts and background info for drivers entering the state.

What gets Canadian drivers pulled over in Michigan?

Powers said there are a lot of local community ordinances that truckers may not be aware of and over which Michigan state police don’t have control.

However, some of the most common and avoidable concerns for commercial drivers continue to be speeding and infractions involving lights, he said.

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