NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. – The Ontario trucking industry’s safety record has undeniably improved in the last two decades. While the number of trucks on the road has increased 77%, the number of fatalities involving trucks is down 67%.
But there’s still room to improve. Twenty percent of fatalities still involve large trucks.
“When things happen with big vehicles, big things happen,” said Richard Robinson of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s carrier enforcement branch, during a presentation to the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s annual conference. “There’s been, unfortunately, some high-profile incidents involving heavy vehicles.”
About 58,000 bus and trucking companies run on Ontario roads, representing 291,155 large trucks and 34,000 buses. And there are 552,464 commercially licensed truck and bus drivers overall. Each year, CVSA officers in the province conduct 97,000 inspections, Robinson told the crowd. About 21,000 commercial vehicles and drivers are placed out of service.
But the reality is that less than 2% of the vehicles are checked overall.
“This needs strategic deployment. We just can’t go on a random basis and hope we catch the bad guys,” he said.
Last year alone, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation conducted 114 regional commercial vehicle safety blitzes – making the province one of the highest-producing jurisdictions when it comes to Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspections.
The work continues this year. During an Operation Air Brake inspection blitz on May 6, 69 vehicles were put out of service. While results for the annual Roadcheck inspection blitz run from June 2-4 have yet to be released, Robinson expects they will come close to the 82.8% compliance rate seen in 2018.
The trucking industry has clearly come a long way in this measure as well. In 1995, just 56.7% of inspected trucks were deemed to be mechanically fit, he said.
More inspections are coming in a bid to find equipment and drivers who continue to fall short. Operation Safe Driver, to run from July 14-20, will focus on issues like distracted driving. Operation Placard, an inspection blitz scheduled for August, will focus on the transportation of dangerous goods. “CVSA has taken a keen interest in this, so it’s actually going to become a North American initiative this year,” Robinson added. Brake Safety Week, meanwhile, will run from Sept. 15-21.
Changes to CVSA inspection procedures mean that teams are inspecting rear impact guards on trailers, too. Failed notes won’t lead to any CVOR points, but it could end up in the remarks section on a report and deny the truck a CVSA inspection decal.
Teams are even watching for the condition of driver seats.
“This does not include a beer cooler, lawn chair, or milk crates,” he said. “Apparently it happens.”
Speeding retains a focus of its own. During a six-month pilot project focusing on speed between October 2018 and April 2019, teams laid 1,036 charges – and 760 of those were for speeds that were 15-29 km/h over posted limits, he said.
In an effort to better focus resources, Ontario is in the midst of a truck inspection station automation project. Drivewyze pre-clearance programs have been introduced at every inspection station. And another four locations have been enhanced with Level 2 screening tools able to spot challenges while trucks roll through the stations – monitored with things like weigh in motion tools, thermal imaging tools to monitor hubs and brakes, and automatic readers for licence plates and placards.
There is also a zero tolerance for commercial drivers when it comes to alcohol or cannabis, Robinson added, although police are called in to enforce those rules. Those who fail the tests face a three-day licence suspension that is renewed after a $250 reinstatement fee. The trucks are placed out of service, too.
Moving forward, officers are allowing digital versions of International Registration Plan (IRP) and International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) documents. Other digitizing options are being explored, he said.
“They’re looking at a very, very broad range of things.”
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