Ontario audit highlights flaws in commercial enforcement

| 1/5/2009

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation spends $39 million each year on commercial vehicle safety enforcement, yet the program comes up short in crucial areas that include driver education, vehicle inspections and crash prevention, according to the provincial Office of the Auditor General.

It is no wonder, then, that highway user groups – including the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada – question the Ministry of Transportation’s recent initiative to load up enforcement personnel with more regulations, such as government-mandated speed-limiter settings for heavy trucks.

Auditor General Jim McCarter stated in the audit that the number of commercial vehicle inspections and the percentage of frequent violators being held accountable through sanctions are statistics that are headed in the wrong direction because of cutbacks.

“The number of roadside inspections conducted by the Ministry has dropped by 34 percent since the 2003/04 fiscal year to approximately 99,000 per year,” McCarter stated in the audit released Dec. 8, 2008. It is the first such audit of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation since 1997.

“In 2007, only three out of every 1,000 commercial vehicles were subject to a roadside inspection,” McCarter added.

McCarter cites some damaging statistics concerning frequent violators, including those involved in collisions,.

“The Ministry relies on the Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) system to track an operator’s safety record so it can identify the higher-risk operators,” McCarter said.

“However, some 20,600 operators – that have been involved in collisions, that have been convicted, or that have been pulled over for a roadside inspection – have never applied for the required CVOR certificate, and the Ministry takes little follow-up action against these operators.”

Commercial traffic has increased 32 percent on Ontario highways in a 10-year period from 1995 to 2004 according to the audit.

Nearly 1.2 million commercial trucks and 30,000 buses are now making 73 million trips each year on Ontario highways.

McCarter said collision statistics in the province are a cause for concern in the commercial sector.

“Specifically, the collision rate dropped by 10 percent during the 10-year period from 1995 to 2004; however, 9.2 percent of all collisions in Ontario still involve a commercial vehicle, so there is still considerable room for improvement,” he stated.

Click here to read the portion of the audit relating to commercial vehicle safety.

Resources for safety enforcement remain an issue in Ontario, and that is part of the reason owner-operator trucking associations question the need for additional regulations.

Ontario lawmakers implemented a law Jan. 1 that makes speed limiters mandatory on all heavy trucks doing business in the province regardless of where they’re base plated. The law begins with a six-month educational period for truckers with full enforcement likely to occur in summer.

The provincial government has vowed to equip highway law enforcement with equipment to check for speed limiter settings through trucks’ computer systems.

Owner-operator groups suggest that the province should worry about enforcing posted speed limits rather than imposing a computerized method for slowing down trucks.

– By David Tanner, staff writer