Aiming for the stars

RED DEER, Alta. – Partners in Compliance (PIC) is raising the bar for its members, requiring all to complete an external National Safety Code (NSC) audit every three years in addition to internal audits each year between.

During its AGM in Red Deer, Alta., March 14, PIC director Andrew Barnes outlined how carriers looking to become new members must have an external NSC audit done during the first year in the program – 2017 external NSC audits are accepted. Current members can start the three year cycle with an internal audit for up to two years until an external audit will be required, all to be conducted by a NSC auditor recognized by Alberta Transportation.

PIC members will be required to upload their annual NSC audits within 10 business days from the date of completion to the PIC website’s Safety Matrix Measurement Portal, as well post as any necessary corrective actions within 45 business days.

Audit scores will be forwarded to Alberta Transportation and are subject to PIC’s benchmark requirements.

Also, any carrier that reaches a level 4 intervention for non-compliance in any of the benchmarks set out in the PIC policy will be suspended and subject to a 12-month restoration period. During this year suspension, the carrier must dig itself out of the level 4 intervention to avoid its PIC membership being terminated.

“These new levels of intervention will really take us to that new height of working with carriers before they enter (Carrier Services’) or (CVSA’s) world,” said Barnes.

Despite the desire from PIC members to strive for a higher standard than the competition when it comes to compliance, concerns were raised about the financial impact the array of new benchmarks, such as the yearly NSC audits, will have on members and those looking to be part of the program.

One such concern centered on the possibility that these new requirements would scare away potential new members, saying the added cost of the external audits would result in “money flashing out the door.”

The idea of government funding to help carriers manage these new requirements, as well as identifying the value in conducting yearly NSC audits, was raised.

Joseph Cote, manager of investigation for Carrier Services, responded, saying carriers performing audits more frequently would see less intervention at the government level, as it would be done sooner and internally, saving companies money in the long run.

Barnes added that PIC members must use the program’s high standards as a selling point, collectively creating a brand with the value customers should be looking for. He also said yearly NSC audits align the PIC program with Carrier Services, and will be reflected in carrier profiles that are shared with prospective contractors, as well as avoiding government intervention.

The approximate cost for an external auditor is $1,000 per day, meaning a 25-truck outfit, which would take about five days to complete an audit, would fork over about $5,000 to compete an audit.

The PIC program aims to provide a certain level of comfort to Carrier Services and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE) that its members are compliant. Barnes said the government should be dealing with carriers that are “really in trouble,” not PIC members, who should be aware of issues prior to them reaching the intervention level.

In his talks with Cote, Barnes said that level of confidence is growing.

“They know that we have the new operations policy, and we have a new set of interventions,” said Barnes. “We’re always going to have hiccups, but besides that hiccup where someone (is placed) out-of-service, we’re monitoring ourselves within the program and making those necessary changes to truly keep improving.”

Cote said Carrier Services is also in the process of developing a new policy to address non-compliance issues and that it is expected to be fully implemented in September.

With distress over whether the new policy would be “heavy-handed,” Cote said the focus would rather be on the educational aspect of enforcement.

“What we’re doing is moving those educational components to the front of the line,” said Cote. “We want to intervene with carriers that are showing signs of non-compliance so that we can get you back into compliance sooner and get you back on the road as quickly and safely as possible.”

The need for a new Carrier Services policy was identified following a 2009 audit, and with PIC’s new policy increasing its intervention level with carriers having difficulties with compliance before it reaches Carrier Services, Cote said their new intervention model will be built strongly off the PIC example.

“This model is really designed to be as simple as possible and as effective as possible,” he said. “We all want the same thing at the end of the day and that’s what this is all designed to do.”

And when it comes to compliance, PIC members are setting an example.

CVE officers Jacquie Daumont and Dan McCormack provided some statistics to back up that claim.

In 2017, PIC carriers had an out-of-service rate of 26.6%, which was more than five percentage points higher than the previous year. McCormack said there were several factors at play for the jump, including increased truck traffic and better use of technology during inspections.

Non-PIC carriers, however, had an out-of-service rate of approximately 33% according to Daumont and McCormick. Three of the most common reasons for being put out-of-service for both PIC and non-PIC members was the braking system, hours-of-service (HOS), and cargo securement.

A carrier’s compliance and the level of trust Carrier Services and CVE has for the carrier goes hand-in-hand, which is why the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) plans to conduct the first pilot program for its level 8 inspection in Alberta.

A level 8 inspection is conducted electronically or wirelessly while a commercial vehicle is in motion, having no direct contact with an enforcement officer. A data exchange is completed, which includes a descriptive location that includes GPS coordinates, electronic validation of who is driving the vehicle, driver’s licence class, endorsements, and status, a valid medical examiner’s certificate and skill performance evaluation certificate, driver’s record of duty status, HOS, USDOT or Canadian NSC number, power unit registration, operating authority, Unified Carrier Registration, and out-of-service orders.

“By adding a new electronic inspection level, our aim is to improve highway safety by providing additional options and strategies that will allow member jurisdictions to leverage technology while also increasing efficiency for industry,” said CVSA executive director Collin Mooney. “This new inspection level gives member jurisdictions a standard to apply to electronic inspections as described in the definition.”

“This is the cool part, this is the future,” Barnes said of the level 8 inspection. “This will change the industry in North America.”

The 2018 PIC “refresh” is in its initial phase, and another consultation period is on the horizon to iron out new program policies.

“This journey isn’t over, this is just version one. Version 1.2 I would suspect is going to come out sometime this fall,” said Barnes. “As we roll this out, we are going to have suggestions, and that’s what we want. This is step one in the refresh, step two is refining and then taking your program to that next level.”

PIC members received their plaques during the program’s AGM March 14 in Red Deer, Alta.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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  • The Partners In Compliance program is probably on of the finest in the country, however the ‘out of service’ rate of members disturbs me. I reason that is why the increased watch dog approach.
    Alberta Transportation should advertise this program far and wide as it does identify the cream of the crop in the trucking industry.