A Higher Standard: New ‘one-knee’ trip inspection rules spelled out

OTTAWA — Most Canadian drivers will be seeing a sweeping new set of trip inspection rules sometime this year, depending on various provincial legislative schedules.

Saskatchewan introduced them in the summer of 2005, but they haven’t been enforcing them because none of the other provinces are there yet. When they arrive, most drivers will probably like what they see.

Most provinces say their own trip inspection
guidelines will be ironed out in 2006

Under National Safety Code Standard 13, Trip Inspections, drivers will still have to inspect their trucks every 24 hours. The inspections will have to be more thorough, but you’ll be given clearer guidelines on what you are responsible for and what the carrier will be responsible for. It makes allowances for trucks to be operated with minor defects, and it’s quite clear on the difference between a major and a minor defect. What’s more, the training material that will accompany the new standard describes what is to be inspected and how. The bottom line is there’ll be less guesswork and interpretation involved in determining the nature of the defect and what to do about it.

For example, in the suspension section, the following is used to describe the difference between major and minor defects:

Suspension System Defects — Air leak in air suspension system; broken spring leaf; suspension fastener is loose, missing, or broken.

Major Defects — Damaged, deflated air bag; Cracked or broken main spring leaf or more than one broken spring leaf; part of spring leaf or suspension is missing, shifted out of place or in contact with another vehicle component; loose U-bolt.

“The distinctions between major and minor defects are pretty clearly spelled out. So, if a minor defect was discovered on a trip, the driver would notify the carrier, and the carrier might say bring the truck back and we’ll take care of it. On the other hand, if a major defect is discovered, the truck shouldn’t be moved,” says Chris Brant, manager, Ontario Transportation Ministry’s Carrier Safety Policy Office.

“If it’s something the driver can’t see – if it’s inside the compressor or somewhere that could only be seen in the shop, we’re not going to be holding drivers accountable for those items. But rest assured, if inspectors find a defect that the driver should reasonably have been expected to see, they’re going to hold your feet to the fire.”

New Paperwork:

If the rest of the provinces adopt a system similar to Saskatchewan’s, you’ll no longer see the familiar check boxes on the trip inspection sheet. Drivers will simply have to sign a declaration that the vehicle has been inspected: I declare that the vehicle(s) shown above has (have) been inspected in accordance with the applicable requirements.

Following Sask’s lead, Ontario’s new inspection rules
are supposed to be easier on drivers

Drivers will have to carry a list of all the inspection points, and they’ll be expected to identify the parts as well as determine the difference between a major and minor defect.

While the old standard listed 23 items the driver was expected to check, the new standard has more than 70. But this new standard has been referred to as a “one-knee inspection,” meaning that while you may have to get down on one knee to see certain things, you won’t necessarily be expected to look into the deepest and darkest recesses of the frame and under-carriage.

“There’s more to check, but you won’t necessarily be held responsible for all of the things that are hidden and beyond your ability to detect ‘at the side of the road,'” Brant says.

There will be lines drawn between what the drivers are responsible for and what the vehicle owner (carrier) will be responsible for. Fines will be set according to the nature and the severity of the defect, as they will be assessed against the party who should be held accountable — not necessarily the driver.

A pilot project was run in Ontario in 2004, and the results were overwhelmingly positive, Brant says. “For one thing, the drivers liked the idea that the standard clearly delineates who is responsible for what; and two, it establishes the process a driver must follow when a defect is discovered.

Brant says the chief purpose of the new rule is to improve communication between the driver and the carrier. “Right now it’s not clear who is responsible for what,” he says. “The law just says it has to be fixed.”

John Meed, program manager for Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation, Transport Compliance Branch, says that out-of-province drivers still using the old inspection reports and following their local rules will not be penalized in that province.

He did say, however, that drivers who are stopped for routine inspections are being given information packets outlining the new requirements. They will be expected to be in compliance with the reporting procedures the next time they’re stopped in Saskatchewan.

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