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Uniform safety ratings may be around the next corner

OTTAWA, Ont. - The finish line may finally be in view nine months after a report blasted bureaucratic foot-dragging for being one reason Canada still lacks a nation-wide commercial-vehicle safety rati...


Collenette
Collenette

OTTAWA, Ont. – The finish line may finally be in view nine months after a report blasted bureaucratic foot-dragging for being one reason Canada still lacks a nation-wide commercial-vehicle safety rating system.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association on Mar. 5, federal Transport Minister David Collenette told trucking executives he was fed up with the lack of consistency in how truck safety rules are applied across the country.

“I am impatient with the differences in safety regimes from coast to coast, and I’m fed up with all these jurisdictional arguments. We (the federal government) have jurisdiction in this case,” he noted.

It is to that end that the Liberal government last winter reintroduced in the Senate a series of amendments to the 1987 Motor Vehicle Transport Act (MVTA), he said.

While Collenette was making this and similar statements recently, officials in the various jurisdictions were busy working behind the scenes to realize those uniform standards, explains Brian Orrbine, Transport Canada’s senior policy advisor on motor carrier issues.

Acknowledging that it has been a slow process, Orrbine says the changes to the MVTA, if approved by Senate and made into law, will “enshrine in legislation” rules needed to make the uniform code a reality.

“In fact,” Orrbine explains, “we had to take the (draft regulation) and have our lawyers, on behalf of everybody, go through and rewrite it in a manner that could be acceptable.”

And that takes time, he continues. “The bottom line is the new Act, provides for the capability for a province to issue a safety fitness certificate.”

“The safety fitness certificate is the licence, if we can call it that, that allows a motor carrier to operate extra-provincially, and it’s based on their safety performance,” he says. “So it’s going to be a much tighter system, it’s all linked together now, and that’s the real important part here.”

Exactly when the MVTA is brought into force depends on the Senate.

On the bright side, the provinces have finally set up the background computer networks required to manage a uniform safety-rating system, says Orrbine.

Basically, the computer networks need to be up and threaded together so that a trucking company’s base-plate jurisdiction can manage electronically and quickly all the documentation needed to enforce the safety standards.

That was one of the main criticisms levelled last August by transportation consultant Fred Nix in his report for the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA).

The provinces had until the end of March to complete that computer work to qualify for $3 million in funding used by Ottawa to spur them into setting up the system.

Now a CCMTA committee is examining the remaining points where the provinces don’t use uniform benchmarks.

“It’s not something that can be done quickly … (Setting up the schedule is) a bit of a laborious task, but there is no better way to do this,” Orrbine explains. “We think the better way to do this is work with what everyone has been using over the decades and try to arrive at the end point.” n


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