It takes more than a clipboard and a stern expression to stop trucks at the scales to perform safety inspections. Inspection officers are now required to be certified and undergo specific training und...
It takes more than a clipboard and a stern expression to stop trucks at the scales to perform safety inspections. Inspection officers are now required to be certified and undergo specific training under a national curriculum.
Canadian inspectors are now trained using a standard devised by the Bethesda, Md.-based Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, or CVSA. The recently introduced Canadian version of the CVSA training program was revised to take into account Canadian laws and differences in regulations such as hours of service. Canadian CVSA instructors were trained last year and jurisdictions across Canada have been using the curriculum since then.
But CVSA training makes up just one element of an enforcement officer’s training, says Peter Hurst, director of transport compliance for the department of highways in Saskatchewan, and president of the CVSA for Region 5 (all of Canada). “Essentially, those getting certified in CVSA have also been trained extensively in legislation, dangerous goods, weights and dimensions, national safety code, officer safety and protocol as well as other areas specific to different jurisdictions.”
Prior to 1999, there were only two qualified CVSA instructors in Canada. But from February 1999 until last summer, there was a concerted effort made to have instructors trained and in place across Canada.
It also took some time to revise the CVSA program for Canadian jurisdictions.
“For the most part, all the laws and regulations, and American references, had to be made provincial,” Hurst said. References to logbooks and hours of service had to take into account 13 hours instead of 10, and wording such as “hazardous materials” was changed to “dangerous goods.”
“Prior to this, certification had to be completed in the U.S.,” said Hurst. “We started in 1997 with a consultant, using the CVEO (Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer) training manual, safety code and the U.S. version of CVSA training. In September and October 1998, our version of the CVSA training portion was approved.”
There is now a small group that keeps abreast of any CVSA updates from the U.S. that may need to be incorporated into the Canadian training.
The actual CVSA training is divided into modules designed to be completed within 80 hours, roughly a two-week window, but this depends on the jurisdiction.
“I would make the course longer if I felt that I wasn’t getting there with the training, but I do try and stay within a certain time frame,” says Graham Miner, an enforcement officer and trainer in P.E.I.
The first part of the CVSA training covers driver component inspections, and the second part the vehicle component:
Driver Component Inspections
In the first week, inspector trainees are given an orientation of commercial vehicles and an introduction to inspections and dangerous goods. They cover carrier identification, placarding, driver qualifications, hours of service and false daily logs, as well as inspection records. They look at how to document driver violations and out-of-service criteria, substances and impairment, and how to perform a Level 3 inspection. According to CVSA requirements, this is a roadside examination of the driver’s license, medical certification and waiver, if applicable, a driver’s record of duty status, hours of service, seat belt, and vehicle inspection report. (CVSA lists six inspection levels with varying steps, the highest level inspection dealing with radioactive shipments.)
Vehicle Component Inspection
In their second week, as part of their vehicle inspection requirements, CVSA inspector trainees learn to perform the following inspections: tractor, mid-section check, trailer and wheel, subsequent trailer inspection, axle, brake, tractor interior inspection, fifth wheel movement and supporting documentation.
In each of the jurisdictions (province or territory) across Canada, enforcement officers achieve CVSA certification once they have completed these course elements, as well as 32 Level 1 inspections supervised by a qualified instructor, who then signs off with a written assessment of that candidate’s proficiency. (The Level 1 inspections are also called “the North American Standard Inspection” by CVSA. The inspection includes examination of license, medical examiner’s certificate and waiver, if applicable, alcohol and drugs, record of duty status as required, hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake lamps, head lamps, lamps on projecting loads, safe loading, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, and windshield wipers.)
The candidates also write an exam administered by the instructor and then sent to Lethbridge Community College in Alberta so the results can be tabulated and tracked centrally. On the written exam, candidates must score 80 per cent or better on each module. If the written and the practical exams indicate that the candidate is CVSA certifiable, the jurisdiction will then sign off on that person and they can begin performing real inspections.
“Now that we’re attempting to deliver all of our own training in Canada, it’s kind of an exciting time, getting everyone on the same page,” says Mark Schauerte, assistant director of motor carrier services for the Northwest Territories department of transportation.
Because in most jurisdictions CVSA certification is essentially an extension of enforcement officer training, the officers are not dealing with altogether unfamiliar material. In terms of prerequisites to CVSA certification, most candidates are already enforcement officers, or have enforcement backgrounds, and at least a grade twelve education. The candidates will also have had to satisfy all requirements for government employees in an enforcement role.
Such course modules as dangerous goods, national safety code training, and client/customer service type courses are generally available across all jurisdictions. British Columbia has candidates complete these courses as a runner-up to CVSA.
In Manitoba, the commercial vehicle enforcement officer training is a nine-month course, but candidates for CVSA certification must also complete a four-day course in dangerous goods and a three-day load security course, as well as a week-long course in mechanical components.
In many jurisdictions, mechanical proficiency is also considered an asset for candidates in the initial hiring process for enforcement officers, but is only an absolute must in Newfoundland.
“Our inspectors still need to be certified, heavy-duty mechanics,” said Kim Durdle, Newfoundland’s deputy registrar. Currently, most of Newfoundland’s inspectors have been certified for years, but are not CVSA-trained. There haven’t been any new certifications or re-certifications since 1988, Durdle said.
“If we hired someone tomorrow, we don’t have CVSA training in place in the province. We’d have to send the candidate out-of-province,” she said. Since CVSA-trained instructors were only just put into place across Canada at the end of last summer, Newfoundland has yet to get a CVSA-trained instructor based on the Canadian CVSA requirements.
In any case, all jurisdictions prefer candidates with enforcement experience, or education (police sciences, law enforcement). In fact, some jurisdictions require some time on the job as an enforcement officer before they permit a candidate to go for CVSA certification.
In Quebec, before the CVSA certification stage, enforcement officers are also given a strong background in self-defense training and communications techniques in addition to the more technical enforcement regulations. In British Columbia there is also emphasis placed on customer service, confrontation management and diversity training.
Some inspectors will find themselves wearing many hats. In P.E.I., and the Yukon, where the population is smaller, enforcement officers will not only be CVSA certified, but will often a
lso be expected to become familiar with other kinds of enforcement.
“Our scales are stationary at entry and exit points, so enforcement officers are also looking at issues like agriculture, fish, and health issues. As they move into their job orientation there’s an expectation that they will be jacks of all trades in a sense,” says Miner. He says the scale operators will also often act as dispatchers for highway officers.
Ontario will have any new hires in enforcement complete seven-weeks core training in theory and field work before they can enter CVSA training. The bare minimum requirements are minimum age 18, a Grade 12 education and no criminal record, but the more experience and education in enforcement-related areas the better.
CVSA candidates in Ontario also train for a little longer than their colleagues across the country, covering the national CVSA curriculum plus a third week examining some of the Ontario differences, such as brake calculations (20 per cent in Ontario), CVOR forms, and hours of work. n