Ontario moves forward on emissions, towing crackdowns

John G Smith

TORONTO, Ont. – Ontario plans to have a new truck emissions inspection regime in place by early 2022, under a series of regulatory changes that are currently in the works.

The province has committed to updating its periodic vehicle inspection program to include safety and emissions-related checks alike — part of a broader effort to crack down on those who manipulate exhaust and emissions systems.

(Photo: istock)

“It’s kind of like the old Drive Clean, but more focused on commercial vehicles,” Ontario Ministry of Transportation senior vehicle standards engineer Joe Lynch explained today, in a presentation during the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s online conference.

Related consultations with industry stakeholders begin this month, marking one of the key steps to the final regulations.

The on-road program regulations that emerge are scheduled to be posted to the Regulatory Registry and Environmental Registry early next year, with regulations surrounding the program delivery to come by late 2021 or early 2022.

Regulations to govern enforcement, including on-road environmental standards, will have an effective date of July 1, while the regulations pertaining to program delivery will be effective on either Jan. 1 or July 1, 2022.

Responsibility to enforce the rules will begin to shift to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks in mid-2021, and will be completed by 2022 when the full program is in place.

Towing regulations

But the province’s pending regulatory crackdowns are not limited to emissions cheaters.

A new Ontario task force is also moving forward to tackle systemic problems in the province’s towing industry – specifically to address the “unethical actors” who charge inflated prices and use intimidation tactics to steal business.

“It’s been in the public eye for quite a while,” Lynch said, referring to concerns about the sector.

This isn’t the first effort to regulate the operators. The province’s 1,600 tow truck companies – and roughly 3,000 tow truck operators – are now monitored through Commercial Vehicle Operators Registrations (CVORs), bringing them in line with carrier safety policies.

But the task force is looking into reports of significant increases in criminal activity, violence and insurance fraud, as well as the way tow truck drivers rush to accident scenes to secure work, he said.

The lack of a consistent training requirement is facing a focus of its own.

“There’s nothing that’s really mandatory out there, and it can create some safety risks out on the road,” Lynch said.

Weights and dimensions

Meanwhile, the province is reviewing its approach to reduced load periods that have applied in the province since 1975. While typically in place from March 1 to June 31, they can vary depending on the region and municipality because of factors such as different geography and weather patterns.

For its part, the Ministry of Transportation has been sharing its approach with municipalities, offering technical support around instrumentation, modeling and monitoring alike.

“We do it based on science. We do it based on what we see on the road,” Lynch said.

Spring weight restrictions were lifted in specific areas of southern Ontario during the early months of Covid-19 shutdowns, ensuring that essential goods such as medicine, fuel, food and agricultural products continued to move, he said. But even that only applied to certain areas.

“The ministry is reviewing the future of reduced load periods,” Lynch said.

Municipalities may have less of an appetite for changing their local rules, especially given the challenge of paying for road repairs against the backdrop of a post-covid financial crunch, he admitted.

Municipalities, already dealing with infrastructure damage and the related costs, have resisted change, Lynch said, noting how increased weight on a commercial vehicle leads to a four-fold impact on the pavement.

“It’s not a simple conversation to have. It’s a money thing, at the end of the day someone is going to have to pay for any additional road damage.”

John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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