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Dissension in the ranks

Ontario enforcement officers were sidelined Wednesday, due to a Ministry of Labour investigation into a workplace safety complaint


TORONTO, Ont. – Ontario highways were left unprotected by Ministry of Transportation enforcement officers for much of yesterday, when officers were ordered to “stand down” while the Ministry of Labour conducted an investigation in response to a safety complaint.

A tipster informed Trucknews.com yesterday that, “At 1 p.m. all MTO officers were ordered to stand down, leaving the province’s roadways unmonitored.”

“I understand that truck inspections were temporarily suspended across the province while the Ministry of Labour investigated a health and safety concern,” confirmed Joshua Henry, media relations spokesman with the MTO. “The health and safety of these officers is important. Ministry management cooperated fully with the Ministry of Labour investigation, which is now complete. The investigation found that there were no conditions present that met the criteria for a work refusal. As a result, all employees have returned to work.”

A transportation enforcement officer (TEO) told Trucknews.com anonymously this morning that further job actions are likely, since officers feel their concerns are being ignored. Specifically, TEOs feel they are getting “false returns from criminal checks.”

Officers submit criminal check requests to the O.P.P., which for some time have all returned as “10-60s”, meaning all clear. The TEO we spoke to said it’s extremely unusual to not get a criminal “hit” at least once every couple of days.

“We were getting a 10-60 for every driver we were running. We knew something was not right,” the TEO said. The officers conducted their own informal investigation and found they were getting false returns from all O.P.P. communications centers across the province, putting their safety at risk.

“If a driver is flagged violent, I’m going to approach that truck and that driver differently and it may affect my decision of what level of inspection I’m going to do,” said the TEO, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from MTO management. “If we are not getting that information back, we are putting ourselves at risk.”

MTO enforcement officers filed a work refusal on Jan. 22, prompting the Ministry of Labour to investigate the workplace complaint. TEOs were pulled off the job yesterday while the Ministry of Labour conducted its investigation, but were then told to return to work while an interim solution is found. They are back on the job today.

“I’m not satisfied with that decision,” the TEO told us. “A solution should be in place before we go back to work.”

TEOs are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which can appeal the decision.

“It’s far from over on our end,” said the TEO. “The only thing we’re trying to win here is our safety. We feel our safety is being compromised.”

But there are other issues that have created bad blood between MTO management and frontline enforcement officers. The TEO we spoke to said wages have fallen off by about $20,000 per year compared to peers in other provinces. And enforcement officers have seen their numbers drop from about 250-300, to about 160. A recent Auditor General report that was critical of the department did cite dropping enforcement officer numbers, but indicated there were 223 enforcement officers in 2018, down from 287 in 2014, a drop of 19%.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk wrote in her report that the MTO “does not have a long-term strategic plan to identify and hire the number of enforcement officers that may be needed to conduct a sufficient number of roadside inspections.”

The TEO told Trucknews.com the Ministry is having trouble recruiting new officers, and that there has been an increase in turnover, as wages have stagnated.

Regarding their safety concerns, Ontario’s enforcement officers had an independent risk assessment done, which was assembled by a former police officer and former Ministry of Labour employee. This report, while not released publicly, highlights safety risks faced by enforcement officers.


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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14 Comments » for Dissension in the ranks
  1. Owen Greenwood says:

    I am sorry I am on the side of the officers here. They themsleves should have access to the information not have to rely on thirdparty provider’s. They’re officers conducting investigations and should be able to not be hampered in the inquiries.

  2. Harpreet says:

    Hello,
    May I know the way to become an MTO ,
    What are the procedures and what type of exams are required to pass

  3. Joseph Rusch says:

    The MTO duties should be rolled into the OPP. The MTO is a easte of taxpayers money(simply look at all the ungoverned trucks running around Ontario,enforcement is a joke). If the TEOs feel that the driver population has a higher criminal element than is being reported by the OPP, then clearly enforcement duties need to be completely handled by proper law enforcement. It works well for California and turning truck enforcement over to the OPP will work well for Ontario.

  4. Eric says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the officers. I work for another Ministry and do a similar job and we have better tools and get paid 20% more.

    We expect these guys to do “police style” traffic stops but give them only a stick and a 70k salary.

    The real story… 160 officers… 100 management staff!!!!!

  5. Magic Inlay says:

    There is a pissing match going on between OPP officers and MTO officers. Always has….and always will be.
    The OPP DO NOT want MTO officers dabbling into their business and vice versa.

  6. Clive Reddin says:

    Safety is paramount. Everyone wants to go home after their shift. According to police, a traffic stop is one of the most dangerous aspects. Nice to know who you are dealing with before they come out of the cab.
    May not always like the MTO but they have a job to do too keeping us safe from unfit vehicles and drivers.

    • Sarah says:

      How is it possible for MTO officers to know who they are dealing with before they get to the cab?
      Trucks are registered to companies, not drivers, so running a plate will give them no more information than the lettering on the doors.

  7. Andrea Read says:

    I am with you for safety if the trucker as threaten yes go for info from OPP but on the other hand if no threats were said why would it change your inspection level you would perform!!!!!!! . If you’re looking for trouble
    it will find you and if you start treating people like Crap you will have terrible results. And to finish what is your Job Title ” Truck Inspection
    technician. Just do your job.

  8. Dusty says:

    Umm … why would 10-60’s be unusual?
    If MTO is primarily targeting trucks that operate in and out of the U.S., those carriers cannot hire drivers with criminal backgrounds. It stands to reason they [MTO] would consistently get an “all clear” from CPIC, or whatever process they are accessing for that information.

  9. Doc says:

    Safety always sells with the public. The real issue is pay, but that never sells. Always hide under the safety umbrella. Imagine shutting down operations in the entire province. It’s just like the teacher’s union. They’re real concerned about the kids so they’re going on strike.

  10. Steve Lennon says:

    The OPP don’t want to do truck inspections, get a grip. They protest about doing radar and look at the speeding problem we have. The MTO should have direct access to CPIC like in other areas.

  11. Barry says:

    This is bad. This is really bad. This is really, really, really bad. My first thoughts are the Ontario Ombudsman, the RCMP, and the Federal Department of Justice need to get involved here. The rights of truck drivers operating in Ontario are being trampled all over here.
    “Officers submit criminal check requests to the O.P.P., which for some time have all returned as “10-60s”, meaning all clear. The TEO we spoke to said it’s extremely unusual to not get a criminal “hit” at least once every couple of days.”
    … if for “some time” they have been getting all clear checks, when were they getting positives? Six months ago, five years ago, ten years ago? Sounds like MTO might be tweaking their ad-hoc statistics in their favour doesn’t it?
    ““If a driver is flagged violent, I’m going to approach that truck and that driver differently and it may affect my decision of what level of inspection I’m going to do,” said the TEO”
    So clearly truck drivers, with a criminal history, stopped by the MTO, are not allowed to be treated the same as other citizens even though they have paid their debt to society? Furthermore, if a driver has a criminal record, that driver is going to get a harsher, or more comprehensive inspection than a driver that doesn’t have a criminal record? Isn’t there a Canadian Charter of Rights that protects citizens from that type of law enforcement abuse?
    ““We were getting a 10-60 for every driver we were running. We knew something was not right,” the TEO said. The officers conducted their own informal investigation and found they were getting false returns from all O.P.P. communications centers across the province, putting their safety at risk.”
    To even remotely suggest that OPP officers and staff, as a matter of policy, are “out to get” MTO officers is ridiculous in the extreme. What do these MTO officers think happened, the OPP had a meeting and said “what’s the best way to get a couple MTO officers killed just for sport”? It simply boggles the mind that a presumably educated public servant, in the law enforcement could even come up with such a scenario.
    It sounds to me like this particular TEO is clearly an abusive law enforcement officer, probably with an ego to match, and has no business being in the public service sector, and that his/her sole agenda is to punish truck drivers for no more reason than they are truck drivers.
    This is a sick situation that demands government intervention at the very highest levels.

  12. davidoff says:

    I was a MTO Enforcement Officer in the late 90’s before moving to another agency, to all of this I say:
    The complaints around numbers are not new, they were the same then – numbers matter more than anything else. So of course a rational person, being told that only numbers matter – provides only numbers. Who would not? That number BTW is hard to deliver if you strive for quality and take into account weather and safety etc. If all you count are beans, you get beans. A police officer I used to know said the same thing, i can deal with one break and enter or write up 5 speeding tickets – the 5 speeding tickets make me look more productive to the Sgt. at the end of the shift.
    The staffing issue is the same – they hire and numbers go up then 2-4 years later they drop as people move on to other positions. But you cannot base overall numbers on the same level of staffing – if you DON”T have the same level of staff. If GM loses 400 workers do they make the same number of cars? No.
    The OPP do NOT want to really do this function -they don’t see it as real law enforcement work. MTO Officers are not armed (batons but not sidearms) and you can’t really ask them to arrest or deal with impaired drivers etc. because it’s NOT their function. Just like a TTC Constable probably isn’t solving murders. Different jobs. There is a difference between regulatory law – environment, transport, labour – and CRIMINAL law – assault, murder, etc. That’s why police don’t usually do one and the other agencies don’t do the other. There are silos, specialities. If you want to roll commercial truck inspections into the OPP – sure – but remember those officers would probably have to be constables, paid as such, and armed because a cop is a cop. As far as Dangerous Goods – let Transport Canada do it -it’s their legislation and authority really. Let them step up to the plate and create their own branch to deal with it on the roads- like Fuel Tax does – as it is very complicated to understand and hard to enforce and that’s why no one wants to touch it on the road.
    I never thought i needed a gun and I sure as well didn’t want the bullshit that comes with having to carry one one for 20 000 less a year than a police officer makes but that was my personal belief and choice.
    Oh and BTW it’s 2020 and the agency i am with just told us that numbers are more important than anything else…. plus ca change.

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