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Boiling point

Tensions mount between Ontario enforcement officers, MTO


TORONTO, Ont. – Multiple Ontario transportation enforcement officers (TEOs) have told Trucknews.com truck safety in the province is being compromised, due to a quota system that focuses on number of inspections conducted rather than quality, and an unsafe work environment.

“We are required to conduct 600 inspections per year and our professional development plan is noted if we do not,” one TEO told Trucknews.com on the condition of anonymity. “Ensuring officers obtain 600 inspections per year creates a data pool for the province to demonstrate we have some of the safest roads in the country, however it is done to the detriment of public safety as we are forced to focus on quantity and not quality of inspections. Clean sheet Level 2 inspections are not an accurate performance benchmark of carrier safety. We should be focusing on audit-pending and conditional CVOR operators to drill down on the high-risk carriers.”

An MTO enforcement officer slides underneath a tractor-trailer during an inspection.

The aggressive quota system causes TEOs to focus on late model, clean equipment, rather than trucks that appear to be higher-risk, another TEO admitted.

“Especially near the end of the year,” they explained. “Officers will target 2019 or newer trucks to perform fast inspections. Worse, officers will avoid poor condition trucks because you will likely be tied up for hours. Officers province-wide will stop inspecting trucks carrying dangerous goods if nothing changes. We will focus on compliant carriers to achieve the goals set out by management.”

The quota system was confirmed in a report commissioned by the MTO and provided by the Public Services Health & Safety Association (PHSA) in June, 2019. The 275-page report, obtained by Trucknews.com, reads “The Ministry of Transportation has set a threshold of approximately 600 inspections per year to meet TEO2 performance expectations.”

“It is extremely difficult to uphold my inspection quotas in the winter due to snow accumulation and reduced safe roadside locations to pull trucks into, yet, I do obtain my numbers,” a patrol TEO told us. “But I believe I compromise driver and my safety at times in order to maintain my quotas. My patrol vehicle has not been upfitted with red and blue emergency lights as it is deemed to be too expensive to upfit older units, yet officers who are not designated as area patrol officers are assigned units with blue and red lights. Cost is the determining factor, not officer safety.”

Another TEO said “We have been flat out told ‘Quality doesn’t matter, just stop and inspect 600 or more because our bonus is attached to total inspections’.”

As reported last week by Trucknews.com, Ontario enforcement officers are disgruntled with work conditions they say compromise their safety, and management’s apparent unwillingness to improve them. Last week, all TEOs in the province were taken off the job for several hours while the Ministry of Labour (MOL) investigated a safety complaint.

“The Ministry of Transportation temporarily suspended truck inspections across the province while the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development investigated concerns about worker safety, specifically the risk of violence,” the Ministry of Labour confirmed to Trucknews.com. “The temporary suspension began at 1:06 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2020 and operations resumed at 4:44 p.m. the same day. The investigation has been completed and no orders were issued.” 

Enforcement officers told us they felt the O.P.P. was providing false reports on criminal checks. The PSHSA report, titled Enforcement Program Assessment for Carrier Enforcement Program Office Ministry of Transportation, highlighted many safety issues faced by frontline enforcement officers. The PSHSA audited the MTO, awarding it a score of 36.33% actual compliance versus a desired compliance rate of 75%. One TEO told us it took a Ministry of Labour intervention for officers to obtain access to the report.

On July 4, 2019, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the union representing MTO transportation enforcement officers, was informed “The ministry will be developing an action plan to address the recommendations identified in the report.”

But TEOs say little has changed. “We are unaware of any action with the exception of updating the Health & Safety boards,” a TEO has told us.

Among the safety concerns identified in the report is confusion over the officers’ enforcement capabilities. While TEOs are recognized as peace officers under the Highway Traffic Act, it’s unclear whether they are also classified as such under the Criminal Code of Canada. In fact, the report indicates the Enforcement Policy Manual given to TEOs adds to the confusion regarding their rights as peace officers. The PSHSA recommended a rewrite of the manual to add clarity.

“Review and clarify the use of the term peace officer and provide direction to the TEO as to whether they are also considered peace officers under the Criminal Code of Canada, which provides a different level of authority,” the report recommended.

Officers also say the MTO provides inadequate training on things like conflict de-escalation and sharp-edged weapon defense. One TEO told the PSHSA during interviews that “If we are wearing soft body armor (vest), someone assumes there’s a risk of enforcement officers being shot. If someone is shooting at me, I have no means to defend myself other than a baton.”

Another added “Self defense relies on the strength of the enforcement officer.”

Because their uniforms closely resemble those of the O.P.P., officers say they are at heightened risk with violent offenders but lack the means available to police to defend themselves.

The report also raised safety issues related to the province’s truck inspection stations.

“There was a lack of consistency with the physical setup of the various stations, including access controls, CCTV (closed circuit television cameras) monitoring and locations, security measures in place (and) driver reception areas,” the report read.

It went on to say some inspection stations have no security systems in place, despite the presence of expensive computers, no safe rooms or places to seek shelter, and that they lack bollards or planters to protect the buildings from vehicle impact, intentional or otherwise.

TEOs who spoke to Trucknews.com said management has been unresponsive to their safety-related concerns. One TEO told the PSHSA “Management does not respond to health and safety concerns in a timely manner and does not follow the timelines in the terms of reference. There is unusual pushback and lack of support from management when health and safety concerns are brought forward.”

But MTO spokesman Joshua Henry said that’s not the case.

“The health and safety of these officers is important,” he said in an email. “Ministry management cooperated fully with the (Jan. 23) Ministry of Labour investigation, which is now complete. The investigation found that there were no conditions present that met the criteria for a work refusal. As a result, all employees have returned to work.”

Multiple TEOs, however, have told Trucknews.com the dispute is far from over, and further work action can be expected.

“In late summer 2019, some 150 officers jointly signed and submitted a Poisoned Work Environment group grievance against the employer which is still ongoing,” a TEO told Trucknews.com. “The incident that sparked this past week’s work refusal is only one incident which has been quickly designated as closed – nothing to see here – but officers will be appealing the ruling. In addition, there are 15 other incidents which must also be investigated prior to the MOL concluding their investigation, so the statement from program management is not entirely accurate.

“In summary, this is a public safety law enforcement agency in distress being smoke-screened by program management…MTO enforcement officers bring a wealth of experience and are all fully CVSA-certified. MTO officers conducted 91% of the CVSA inspections conducted last year and play a vital role in ensuring public safety on provincial highways.”

 

 


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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27 Comments » for Boiling point
  1. Dave Walker says:

    Not sure who this MTO spokesperson is but probably just another burocrat that has no idea about what he is saying. The TEO workforce is a dedicated group of law enforcement officers that enjoy their work and are dedicated to public safety.

    Unfortunately management is a bunch of self-serving clowns that couldn’t care less about public safety.

    And yes, managers always get significant raises!!

    • Frances says:

      Actually, that is untrue. We had an MTO officer say the exact same thing during an investigation four years ago after a car crossed the lane in front of one of our trucks, successfully committing suicide. They are also encouraged to avoid “New Canadians’ because too much time is wasted in the judicial process because they plead discrimination.

  2. Calvin Bradfield says:

    For the sake of clarity, I would like to point out that TEO’s do not get performance bonuses. I believe that is a perk reserved for management.

  3. Patrick says:

    So they want guns now?

  4. DaveP65 says:

    This is when I miss the old days. The putnam north has been replaced twice since I’ve been driving. it was a brick shack the same size as bowmanville north. The officers didnt wear flack jackets, equipment belts, or jackboots. The drivers that got busted for stuff were guilty and knew it. There was mutual respect.
    In the last few years my attitude has softened with regard to TEO’s though. The donkeys they deal with are the same guys we have to deal with day in and day out in the centre and left lanes.
    I can barely stand to deal with 1/2 the drivers on the road….i can imagine how they feel. Just don’t put me out of service for an unsecured 5th wheel puller and we’ll get along just fine.

  5. Shawn says:

    I had to laugh last spring when I brought my brand new 2020 truck home and was inspected 4 time in 2 days. Twice by the same officer!! LOL

    Like this anonymous officer said in this article, I guess it was just a nice easy clean target where they could get numbers up without getting their hands dirty.

    The one thing I do not like with the MTO though, is how every jurisdiction interprets the laws and regs in their own way. What is legal at one scale is an offence with a different officer?? There is ZERO uniformity.

    What also angers me is how many have gone out and spent $220,000 plus, and up to $360,000 on new SPIF log trucks, yet even still after the January first deadline for SPIF compliance they are not enforcing it on all these old trucks running around. And most officers I have dealt with know absolutely nothing about how SPIF even works.

    Doesn’t make for a very fair playing field for those of us that buy new equipment to stay compliant.

    • Shawn says:

      Quick and probably stupid question.. I’m not in the logging industry but what is this SPIF compliance?? I’m more curious than anything, what dose it stand for so I can look into it a bit? Or do you have a link I can go check out?

      Thanks in advance!

      • Big Hass says:

        Safe, Productive and Infrastructure Friendly (SPIF) – Google – Ontario Regulation 413/05 for weights and dimensions laws and regulations.

    • Josh Lobsinger says:

      Usually just depends on if the scalemaster is a dick or not. I’ve heard of guys getting let go with a slap on the wrist and other have 3000+$ tickets. Some are worse than others.

  6. Peter Turner says:

    The reaity of trucking has been saying this for years , the 2 directors of the mto have chosen not listen or react to many complaints, on how the mto does it job. As a registered lobbyist for the commercial drivers of Canada for the last 18 years. I have recieved a email from the director Mr..freeman stating that they would not respond to any of my request . They stated I have i been abusive . Since they have refused to speak to for the last 6 years all my communication have been in writing. Now we have requested proof that the I have been abusive. I have involved the attorney general office. More to come.

  7. Gary Peterson says:

    While vehicle conditions ARE a most definitely important and vital concern to focus on, and the concerns stated here as well, the most troubling and biggest problem causing accidents and costing property damage, and more importantly, LIVES, is the gross incompetence and under-trained, or often NON-trained commercial tractor-trailer drivers on our roads. I drove both short-haul, & long-haul for over 30 years, and now work in highway construction traffic control doing lane closures and such mostly on the 400 series highways and CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT I SEE WITH MY OWN EYES!!!!…. THE MINISTRY MUST ADDRESS THIS ISSUE BEFORE MORE CARNAGE IS DONE.!!!…. I KNOW, If the drivers ARE ACTUALLY TRAINED on how do do a proper pre-trip and catually be able to recognise vehicle safety problems that the above article will be a somewhat less concern…. BUT MAKE KNOWING ENGLISH AND HOW TO READ AND UNDERSTAND TRAFFIC AND WARNING SIGNS AND PROPER TRAINING….AND NOT A “BOUGHT AND PAID FOR” “AZ” licence, IS WHAT’S REALLY NECESSARY!!!!!!

    • john Wihksen says:

      Hi-60 years in the Transportation Industry Professional driver – Management and “NO CHANGE” involving upgrades for class 7-8 driving Trade. BC. has not upgraded since 1971 – 24 hours practicum and 16 hours air brake theory, which is minimal and even that is circumvented by new drivers. Most cannot adjust brakes or “chain – up” tire chains. Commercial articulated truck accidents are at a all time high and the Government does literally NOTHING to prevent unskilled drivers on our highways.

    • Jimmy says:

      Pay properly and the good drivers will come back. Has a driving wage kept up with inflation. No. Pay by the mile, late fees of a 1000 bucks from your big box stores and we wonder why the roads are unsafe. The equipment its falling apart fbecause many people are working for next too nothing. Check out CRA stats. Trucking companies are running for 3-10% profit if they are lucky! Cheap rates, cheap labour = unsafe drivers and equipment. And yet the CTA wants the government allow more immigrant drivers! The industry is done. There is no fixing it because money had corrupted the common sense out of it!

  8. Darryl D says:

    This is so true! There is always a price tag on safety. It’s incredibly frustrating as driver watching these guys inspecting clean newer equipment, because they can’t go and inspect the “junk” operators on the highway due to safety, race, religion, fear etc: I hope they can strike to make a better work environment for them. I support the MTO and the OPP except for when they turn a blind eye to the obvious problems plaguing our highways.

  9. S.M says:

    Bull shit, Commercial Enforcement officer jus don’t want to work, they do 10 hours 4 days shift work, they need to do 600 inspections in 365 days, let’s cut days in half so they work 180 days, 4 inspections a day in 10 hours and I don’t think that’s alot, it’s just being lazy.

  10. Robert summers says:

    well I guess they wouldn’t need body armour if they weren’t such pricks, and use their authority like they are god… they even try to intimidate drivers when you challenge them on an issue by saying they will write you up for more stuff… if what they were doing was really about safety why is there a monetary penalty attached to every issue, should be fix the issue and carry on.. why do we hold truck drivers to the standard as if they are mechanics…why are MTO officers inspecting trucks when they are not qualified… if a mechanic needs 5 year apprenticeship and write an exam to be qualified an MTO officer should be no less. here is an idea… if you want the trucks inspected more than make it so they need an inspection every 6 months.. worried about safety when doing a road side inspection… Don’t do them… unless you see a major issue with a truck going down the road, you don’t need to stop them…In Ontario the MTO officers treat drivers like dirt…lack any kind of professionalism, they are a bunch of know it alls and rude…

  11. Barry says:

    How does this work … MTO officers claim to “play a vital role in ensuring public safety on provincial highways.” yet they only inspect trucks that are 2019 and newer, “Officers will target 2019 or newer trucks to perform fast inspections.”. … their own words. Something doesn’t add up does it? What are they protecting the public from … excessive warranty claims ???

    Let’s be honest, targeting new trucks only isn’t a new thing for MTO. It’s been going on for literally years. Any carrier can tell you that their new power units get inspected way more often than their older ones.

    In a nutshell this is what TEO’s appear to be after … they want more money, less work, spiffy new cars with flashy red & blue lights, an “I can do anything I want badge”, and a gun to back it up. Weird bunch of ducks if you ask me.

    To everyone reading this, if you think I have no respect for TEOs, I’ll clarify my position. I have zero respect for them. Almost to a man, they are lazy, power hungry, egotistical bullies. Nothing more, nothing less. They firmly believe they are judge, jury, and executioner in the moment, and on the spot.

    Just look at their current tactics as evidence, holding the province’s road safety as hostage. Inspecting new trucks, not old junk. Focusing on compliant carriers, instead of non compliant carriers. Refusing to inspect dangerous goods loads. They are supposed to be public servants. How is that serving the public?

    Each and every one of them knew what the job was when they signed up. Chances are most of them applied somewhere to be police officers, but couldn’t make the grade. Now they want the province to lower the bar to let them be policemen anyways.

    Best course of action the Ontario Government could take would be to disband the MTO enforcement arm, and hand over enforcement to the OPP/police. The system works quite well in the U.S. No reason it shouldn’t work here.

    • Bryan says:

      We’ll Barry, as I agree with almost everything you said, I have noticed lately that the majority of trucks being inspected on the 400 series hwys are ‘new Canadian’ companies. This is a step in the right direction. A mechanic friend recently did a road service call for a 2019 frieightshaker that already had 290 k on it and still had the original air filter and def filters. Yous people do not maintain their trucks. And no you can not fire me for saying that. Have a great day mister. By the way, I have an old truck (2002) and I bet it’s in better mechanical shape than 98% of the trucks out here.

      • Barry says:

        It stands to reason that the trucks you see being inspected are “new Canadian” as you put it, they represent better than 50% of the trucks out there.

        Now, it sounds like you are assuming I am a “new Canadian” as you put it. What I am is beside the point. However, neither am I inexperienced. I will guarantee that I have more experience in this industry than most of the people you will meet.

        Being an old school driver with a 2002 truck it makes sense that your knowledge about new trucks is a bit lacking. At 290K, any new truck, let alone a 2019 Freightliner, had better still have the original DEF filter in it. It’s a lifetime item. It’s also perfectly reasonable to have an air filter still in there at 290K because they are changed on time and dirt level rather than mileage. Your mechanic friend should probably catch up on the new tech. It will serve him well.

        Stay safe out there Bryan.

  12. David Dudgeon says:

    That’s comical. These guys have been doing the bidding of the Mullins, Bisons and other corporate garbage companies for decades and now they want to cry about the situation they helped create. MTO has been in the pockets of, and in criminal conspiracy with, CTA and OTA forever and its not going to stop anytime soon.
    Of course they want numbers to look good, they need to in order to balance out the deadly results of their policies of giving licenses out like candy, speed limiters, no driver education, forcing experienced drivers out of the industry, etc. The Bradley’s, and all members of cta and ota should be behind bars for their crimes, not continuing to write policy for mto.

  13. Bill says:

    Why doesn’t anyone address the fact that commercial drivers are expected to work up to 70 hrs a week…if there was EVER a safety issue on the roads this is one… 70 hours of driving on these nightmare 400 series hiways… And those damn cagers!!! I see soooooo much stupidity on the part of cagers… That space in front of me is for braking….unless you want me in your cup holders safe distance sheeple

  14. Rocco gesualdo says:

    I believe mto should be abolished and opp should take over mto has no comen sence it is all about how many fines can we hand out

  15. Chris says:

    I agree with all the above comments. We dont drive long or short haul trucks like most of you. We do own a construction company and float our equipment around almost daily. Our trucks are always serviced and safeties done yearly. Yet everytime we get pulled they find something. In the last 5 times we have been pulled over. 4 times we recieved fines from 250 to 1000.00 and once got let go. But in the later I was read in on new rules and fines that were in effect that I never even heard about. And could have been charged with.
    Two of the tickets were the same officer in just under a month. Targeting our truck.
    Everyone in our area will tell you that us smaller carriers feel that they abuse their power, set their own standard of enforcement, it’s their way of understanding the rules when the writing isn’t clear. All in the name of collecting more tax dollars. I am way more worried when I get pulled over by them then any officer because you dont know what to expect. I too think they should give this responiblity to the police and or trained and certified mechanics. Not guys with a uniform, badge and truck/car with the same blue and red lights as cops. If any police officer conducted business like the MTO officers I have dealt with, would almost certainty be fired.

  16. Al says:

    Things have not changed in 20 + years. Management has always dictated 500 – 600 inspections per year for each officer.

  17. Rich says:

    Why this makes complete sense, avoid the older trucks and inspect the new ones! It makes the public mistrust government (and we should because they routinely lie to us) more and more and that is why the public feels disconnected from these elites who tell us what to do yet don’t really do anything to actually “protect” the average motorist and other commercial operators from knucklehead truck drivers and their fleets who skimp on safety. I believe in “good governance” no matter where you live and Ontario is just another example of governmental “dereliction of duty” to the motoring public. Or maybe they are protecting new and newer “immigrant” trucking company owners who don’t want to pay for proper maintenance, thereby allowing them to operate more profitably while properly maintained fleets go out of business? That’s why I recently purchased a gas guzzling SUV, I don’t care what it costs to operate OR the fact that it weighs more and damages the roads. I want as much protection from these sh-tty drivers and their greedy owners who don’t want to spend the money on proper maintenance.

  18. Jay says:

    I’m 55 now and a licenced 310T and 310S from the age of 24. I grew up and started working after school and on week ends and holidays in one of Canada’s largest fleet shops at the time from the age of 12 and obtained my AZ licence at 18 which I still hold and use and is as clean as the day I got it and have ran local and long distance through out North America during my working career mainly as a mechanic. Through the 70s, 80s, And up until the recession of the early 90s a fleet or operator would grease and visual inspect his unit at 10,000km then grease, visual inspect and oil change at 20,000 km and this was a common interval and some would do it even sooner as say if in heavy /off road use.
    The single service interval now for oil and grease and inspection is at 60,000 km (average)because filtration now allows for that but no grease/ inspection in between. The point is a lot of stuff can come lose, crack, leak, wear and fall off during a 60,000km service interval. No grease steer and drive line components give a false sense of security and cost savings and a lot of quick lube or service loss leader lube job shops/ dealerships tend to place their least experienced apprentices on the job with out thorough training and over sight and the end result is break downs and getting nabbed at the scales .Until the MTO steps in an mandates sensible service intervals the cost cutters/half wits will keep running their units until they absolutely have to see a shop for an issue and maybe then get their truck serviced while it’s there. A lot of the fleets and major Rental fleets are no better. Just buy a five or six year old tractor from one and you will find out. Also don’t get me started on annual safety inspections as that’s still another ongoing mess that needs additional monitoring. —Dieseldog!

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