MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — A record-breaking crowd attended this year’s annual meeting of the Ontario Fleet Safety Council, and those who did may be less likely to get in trouble with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), thanks in part to a presentation by MTO transportation enforcement officer Mark Bonner.
He shared tips from enforcement’s front lines on how to comply with Ontario’s commercial vehicle regulations and stay safe. For starters, when you’re approaching an MTO scale and the lights are on, don’t slow to a crawl in hopes the lights go off, Bonner warned.
“I have this fancy monitor with a swivel stick and zoom. Guess who I’m going to inspect if you are bogging down traffic and driving slowly,” Bonner said. “There’s something wrong with this truck (that slowed down) is what I’m thinking.”
The MTO also has ways of identifying trucks that are bypassing the scales, he added.
Another way to get in trouble is to drive aggressively once you’ve been flagged for inspection. Some drivers will make a show of their frustration when they’re instructed to report for further inspection, putting other at risk.
Bonner reminded carriers to regularly check their drivers’ licences to ensure they’re valid. Trucks can be impounded if the driver has had a suspended licence for more than 100 days, so annual abstract checks won’t necessarily suffice.
“I recommend you get abstracts every 90 days and check to make sure the driver’s not suspended before you give them your keys,” Bonner advised.
Drivers are required to assist enforcement officers with an inspection of their vehicles, and most are willing to do so, but not all of them know how, Bonner said.
“The drivers are always very cooperative. They will open the hood, beep the horn. But a surprising amount of drivers don’t know their equipment,” he said. For instance, they may not know how to lower an axle.
“If I’m crawling underneath the truck, I don’t want them to figure out how to put the axle down while I’m underneath,” Bonner said.
He also urged drivers who aren’t familiar with their equipment to ask their employers and to get to know it.
When hauling dangerous goods, Bonner said common issues involve missing or faded placards, or placards that aren’t placed square on point.
“If there’s an accident, depending on the nature of the goods, are we closing one lane of highway or two lanes of highway? Or are we evacuating a neighbourhood? Unfortunately, the driver is not always available at that time after the accident to let us know what’s in there,” Bonner explained.
Documentation is another common source of problems. Some drivers have old or multiple certificates, permit binders that are a mess or no binder at all – just loose documentation.
Some drivers fail to update their licence when necessary. If you’ve had laser eye surgery and no longer require glasses when driving, Bonner said it’s important to get your licence updated or you’ll be in violation if not wearing glasses.
When it comes to hours-of-service, common violations include not updating logs to the last change of duty cycle, illegible logs (“Use a ruler!” Bonner stressed), failure to carry the previous month’s logs when required and drivers who normally run local but have made a single trip outside the 160-km radius without filing the required logs.
Bonner stressed that fudging logbooks is a fool’s game.
“Your life’s stress-free if you follow the rules and you don’t get that far ahead if you play with the logbook,” he said. “You really don’t, and you put a lot of stress on yourself (by fudging them).”
Bonner said he’s a big fan of electronic logs. He prefers the systems that allow the driver to scroll through his or her own logs.
He also shed light on Ontario’s laws regarding handheld communications devices. Two-way radios, including handheld CB radios and push-to-talk devices, are allowed until Jan. 1, 2018, as long as they do not allow users to transmit and receive information at the same time.
Bonner also reminded fleets to pay attention to tires, especially with winter approaching.
“Winter’s coming,” he said. “Check your tires. I’ll be checking tires.”
Drivers should be sure to record any defects discovered during their trip inspections.
“Encourage your people to fill things out that they find,” Bonner suggested. “Because they found something on the truck, there’s an inherent fear to document it. Make sure you fill it out. It helps your employees become familiar with their equipment as well and if they’re familiar with their equipment, it helps them find things before it gets to me.”
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