Canadian Underwriter

Why thousands of unsafe commercial vehicles remain on Ontario roads

December 6, 2019   by Greg Meckbach

Ontario legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario government

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More than half of Ontario’s commercial vehicle carriers have not been inspected by the province’s transportation ministry in the past two years, and the number of vehicles inspected each year has dropped big-time.

These were among the findings in the 2019 Annual Report of the Auditor General of Ontario, released Wednesday afternoon.

“Our audit found that the Ministry had not inspected any of the commercial vehicles of 56% of Ontario’s 60,000 carriers in the last two years. This included many carriers at the highest risk of future collision,” Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said in the report.

Ontario legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario government

In 2018, there were about 60,000 companies registered to operate more than 290,000 commercial vehicles in Ontario.

The Ontario government has 32 fixed roadside inspection stations along Ontario highways and also uses about 70 temporary roadside inspection stations where officers set up temporary inspection checkpoints on the sides of highways.

The Officer of the Auditor General found that the number of roadside inspections conducted by the Ministry steadily dropped by 22% from over 113,000 in 2014 to less than 89,000 in 2018.

During the same period, transport ministry officers removed 22% of all the commercial vehicles they inspected, for mechanical defects or driver violations.

So had the department done 113,000 inspections each year from 2015 through last year, it would have performed more 46,000 additional inspections – and could have been expected to remove tens of thousands of dangerous vehicles from the road, the Auditor General suggested.

Also in Wednesday’s report, Lysyk notes there is no requirement in Ontario to test commercial vehicle drivers for cannabis impairment.

To reduce the risk of collisions involving commercial vehicle drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the auditor general recommends the Ministry of Transportation study and report on the potential road safety benefits of mandatory pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing for commercial vehicle drivers.

From 2014 through last year, there was an unplanned reduction, by 19%, in the total number of enforcement officers, from 287 in 2014 to 233 in 2018.

Lysyk is recommending the transportation ministry create a province-wide, staffing plan, improve its ability to recruit enforcement officers and regularly review whether enforcement officers are meeting productivity targets for roadside inspections.

The Ministry of Transportation said Wednesday it agrees with the recommendation.

From 2008 to 2017, 1,033 collisions involving commercial vehicles resulted in at least one fatality in Ontario. During that time, collisions involving commercial vehicles in Ontario resulted in almost 44,000 injuries and 1,180 fatalities. Commercial vehicles were at-fault in 46% of these collisions, including 33% of collisions that resulted in a fatality, according to the report.

When officers inspect commercial vehicles, some violations would result in the ministry putting a vehicle out of service. These include leaking, flat, or worn-out tires; insecure loads or cargo; or invalid driver’s licence.

Other violations could result in the vehicle being impounded. These include: brake fluid leaking combined with a brake drum or rotor cracked, broken or missing; or frame of vehicle broken or bent and is improperly contacting another part of the vehicle.

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