OAKVILLE, Ont. – The hiss of air from the supply line is unmistakable. Satinder Gill’s trailer has just come flying off the back of his tractor – or so he’s made it seem.
By disconnecting the supply lines, the driver for JLine Trucking is simulating a lost trailer as part of a roadside inspection being conducted by MTO Enforcement Supervisor Adriano Sanna.
“If he loses his trailer we know he’s got brakes, so that’s good,” he says.
Sanna is one of several Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) officers at the Halton Hills West truck inspection station conducting inspections during the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s International Roadcheck from June 5-7.
The annual blitz is in it’s 30th year and will see inspections on more than 2,800 vehicles in Ontario alone. MTO officials conduct about 110,000 inspections in a given year.
Officers are doing a Level 1 compliance check, with a focus on mechanical condition, cargo securement, driver qualifications, daily inspection reports, daily logs, and in some cases, compliance with dangerous goods regualtions.
Senior Strategic Advisor, Enforcement Operations with MTO Chris Davies says the Roadcheck forces officers to run counter to their training for three days a year.
For 362 days a year, inspectors are trained to look for trucks that have violations and pull them off the road, triaging trucks going through the scales based on what they see on a first glance – and officers get good at noticing which trucks are unsafe.
Only 54% of trucks flagged for further inspection at the station pass with no violations on regular days.
Roadcheck forces inspectors to complete the inspections on trucks at random. In 2017 the pass-rate jumped to 84% during the blitz. During the first Roadcheck in 1995, compliance was just 54%.
For Davies, that jump is a good news story. Indicating that most truck drivers on the road are operating safely.
The Halton Hills location off Highway 401 is one of the busier locations with an estimated 15,000 trucks passing by this stretch of road every day. That means about five inspections per officer on an average day. During Roadcheck that number increases to about seven a day.
During an average day, officers monitor video surveillance systems that give them eyes down the road, focused on traffic headed westbound towards the inspection station. The monitors allow them to zoom in to get a sense of on-coming trucks load securement and other possible issues. As trucks pull into the scales the cameras even allow officers to see if the driver is on their phone or doing up their seatbelt at the last minute. This helps them pick out which trucks need a longer look, and which can be allowed to continue on their way.
During Roadcheck, officers turn on the lights indicating the station is taking trucks and flag either the first or last truck in the line at random.
The 30-40 extra minutes it takes out of a random driver’s day may seem inconvenient, but Gill sees it as a necessity, saying that if he knows he’s safe, there’s nothing to worry about.
“It’s good for safety,” said the Cambridge, Ont. driver. “It refreshes my memory.”
Most drivers are asked to stay in their cabs during an inspection. They need to operate the lights and brakes for the inspector, and it makes it easier and safer for the officer to conduct their investigation.
When Gill made the request to watch the inspection, however, Sanna saw it as a good learning opportunity, and let him participate. Part of Roadcheck’s aim is to educate drivers and fleets about what officers are looking for, and what makes a vehicle safe.
Sanna says a Level 1 inspection only covers what would be touched on in a 15-minute walk around, which every driver should be doing at the start of every day.
Some of the biggest things they see are bulges in tires, or underinflated tires – tire pressure can’t be less than half of the recommended pounds-per-square-inch or it’s considered flat – or air supply lines dragging on the catwalk between the truck and trailer.
Sanna says the friction from dragging lines can cause air leaks, and officers like to see them tied out of the way with a bungee cord. On a regular day, an officer noticing dragging lines as the truck passes over the scale is likely to get the truck flagged for further inspection.
While Gill’s truck passes the inspection, for Ladrick Cooke it’s those lines that put him out of service. A driver with 50 years under his tires, Cooke hauls gravel for Metrix Ready Mix in Toronto.
The dragging supply lines on his 2017 Mack truck were found to have sprung a leak, and he has to wait at the inspection station to have them repaired before heading back out on the road. Even wit the inconvenience of an out-of-service, he doesn’t think Roadcheck is a nuisance.
“It doesn’t bother me because if my truck isn’t safe, I don’t want to be on the road,” he said.
That attitude reflects what officers want from the blitz. Davies says inspectors don’t see citations as a “gotcha” moment, but rather hope to spread a message of keeping trucks safe and compliant on the road.
“No one is a bigger fan of drivers than us.”
This article has been updated from a previous version to reflet a misunderstanding in annual inspection numbers. A pervious version said 110,000 trucks were inspected in Ontario during Roadcheck – that number is the annual inspection rate. MTO Senior Strategic Advisor, Enforcement Operations Chris Davies’ title was also updated. We regret any inconvienance this caused.
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