How to stay out of trouble with the MTO

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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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • A drivers life would be much less sressful if they weren’t worried about dealing with arrogant, legalistic, small-minded enforcement officers who have an agenda or view all truckers and operators through the same preconceived stereo-type myopic lens as most of society views us!
    Have I been unfairly harassed? Do I know others who’ve been unfairly harassed? In a resounding word ‘YES’.
    Perhaps if more enforcement officers were recruited from the ranks of trucking, they’d use a little more empathy and common sense.
    Perhaps if the MTO and other agencies, including the USA DOT came down harder on the companies, their management, dispatchers, as well as these ‘training schools’, you might gain more respect and cooperation from drivers such as myself.
    And let’s not be worried about ruffling the the feathers of drivers/companies who constantly hide behind the race card issue; as one of your officers once confessed to me personally!! I want a fair and equal playing field.

  • Great ideas, and totally in favor of safety…however, once again…get these companies to pay enough to replace everything that needs to be replaced when it needs to , pay enough that a couple days downtime to look after the truck is possible, pay enough that some of these drivers wont feel like they have to fudge a log book, underlying issues always trace back to money… or lack of!.

  • The reason why alot of drivers slow down and hope the lights will stop flashing is because the MTO wastes too much of our time going through your scales. The fact that you don’t get that just confirms the disconnect the enforcement officers have with drivers and their jobs. Also your statement about “guess who I’m going to inspec ” confirms most drivers fear, the MTO is predatorial.

  • I also wish all MTO officers would be trained to enforce the same standards.
    One officer will tell you to do something one way, then the next guy you get inspected by tells you it is all wrong.

    Or one tells you to use the empty lane when empty, then the guy on the next shift comes out and yells at you for not crossing the plate empty.

  • Why can’t the fields be turned to accommodate trucks and drivers. No fines to drivers or carriers, just a 24 fix-it ticket for minor defects, and on the spot repair or allow towing should a major defect be found. I’ll bet you would have drivers lined up at the scales for an inspection, if they knew there would be no fine or points, just to get a quarterly sticker. What better of a way to get a more positive involvement from all Drivers, Carriers, and the MTO.

  • The best route to a “stress free life” at the scales is to pretend you don’t speak English. I’ve seen it done as I’m sure many others here have as well. They don’t want to deal with that and send you on your merry, stress free way.

  • I read your article but the statement given by Mark Bonner is totally wrong

    ‘failure to carry the previous month’s logs when required’
    It has to be 14 days only and not a month

  • Everyone has a job to do. Most trucks get in, get out without an out of service, without an infraction. We don’t write every ticket ie: you come in with a flat – yes you have to fix it – not likely to get a ticket for something that could have happened during your travel. We do have quotas, however they are reasonable expectation to allow for a balanced discretion when it comes to infractions. You do your job, we’ll do our and in most cases it ends well. Truckers perception of us is askew. We don’t write emotional tickets, racial tickets or stray from the OOS criteria. We do our job, and if you’re doing yours it’s a good interaction with the MTO Officers. Trust me when I say, if you were stopped by a cop, you are getting every ticket they can write. Be careful what you wish for.

    • thanks one person. Unfortunately your colleagues have not the same point of view. I am a very consciences driver but every time your lights go on, the fear of what it may have been like in 1939 East Europe comes to mind. Laugh as you will only demonstrates the disparity you officers view yourselves compared to those whom you Lord over.

  • Another way to stay out of trouble is to not be an immigrant. We have one who struggles with the language barrier and it quite often bites him because of prejudicial officers.