NEW RULES: Canada's new pre-trip inspection rules are being adopted July 1 in Ontario.

TORONTO, Ont. – The Canadian trucking industry’s long-awaited national daily truck inspection requirements come into effect in Ontario July 1. That’s when Ontario begins educational enforcement of the new standards.

Under the new regulations, drivers will be expected to conduct a full inspection every 24 hours and monitor the vehicle throughout the trip as required. They’ll be required to identify and respond to defects and record and report defects to their carriers. They’ll have to carry a daily report. And they’ll have to carry an itemized defect list in their cabs.

Most importantly, instead of the current 27 item list of systems/components to inspect, drivers will be given a finite list of defects to look for.

For instance, when it comes to their daily inspection of air brakes, drivers will be required to identify specific minor defects, namely audible air leaks and slow air pressure build up rates, while major defects have been defined as:

* Pushrod stroke of any brake exceeding the adjustment limit;

* Air loss rate exceeding prescribed limit;

* Inoperative towing vehicle (tractor) protection system;

* Low air warning system fails or system is activated;

* Inoperative service, parking or emergency brake.

Daily inspection reports will otherwise require the following information: The vehicle’s licence plate number and jurisdiction, the operator’s name, the date and time of inspection, the city, town, village or highway location of the inspection, the name and signature of the person who conducted the inspection, the signature of the person currently driving the vehicle, the odometer reading and the list of defects, or statement that no defects were found during the daily inspection.

Carriers will also be able to make their own additions to the inspection form to assist the person who will conduct the inspection, or delete a portion of the form that addresses the inspection of a specific vehicle component if the vehicle does not have that component.

News of the July 1 implementation was welcomed by industry insiders.

“Under the old regulations, drivers were given no real direction as to what to look for when conducting a vehicle inspection,” said OTA president David Bradley, also president and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “Basically they were told to check wheels, check brakes and that sort of thing; it was all very vague and few drivers are certified mechanics.”

Drivers making their daily vehicle inspections will now refer to a schedule that has a list of both minor and major defects on it.

“The new regulations are more practical and clear in terms of what a driver can and should be expected to inspect,” said Bradley.

Still, some industry insiders worry that harmonizing the enforcement of the new national standards may be easier in theory than in practice.

“Saskatchewan has already indicated that they will proceed with full enforcement as of July 1, 2007,” pointed out Private Motor Truck Council of Canada president Bruce Richards. “But Ontario will begin ‘educational enforcement’ on that date, and full enforcement is expected to begin in Ontario in January of 2008. We need Saskatchewan to accord reciprocity to carriers base-plated in other jurisdictions that are travelling through the province as long as those carriers are in compliance with their home jurisdiction’s rules.”

PMTC has already written to the Saskatchewan minister to request this, said Richards.

But those aren’t the only potential glitches, he added.

“Ontario indicated that there are ‘minor’ wording differences between its regulation and the NSC standard – this is likely to occur with more than one jurisdiction as we approach full implementation, so we need full reciprocity across all jurisdictions, so long as the principles of the NSC standard are reflected in each jurisdiction’s regs,” Richards said.

Still, Ontario’s attempt at standardization is an improvement on the old rules, he added.

“It is good business to identify and remove all doubt as to what constitutes a major vs. minor defect as it will assist drivers by removing judgment calls as to a vehicle’s road-worthiness. The new standard should improve both training and compliance. And allowing companies to customize the form to delete unnecessary items and even add in some is a very good idea and should further the ability of fleets to train their drivers,” said Richards.

A long time coming

The need to update the trip inspection criteria was one of the recommendations of Target ’97 – the joint MTO/industry committee that conducted a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of a broad range of truck safety regulations in the late 1990s.

“When MTO and industry stakeholders originally reviewed the effectiveness of current daily vehicle inspection requirements they found that the former inspection items were vague and susceptible to interpretation, that all defects were being treated equally; and that the response to defects was being interpreted differently by drivers, carriers and enforcement officers,” said MTO senior policy advisor Dawn Stevely.

MTO also discovered that inspection statistics indicated that over 85% of out-of-service defects are visible to drivers, she said.

According to MTO, of the OOS defects visible to drivers: 59% were brake defects; tires were 12%; lights were 11%; and wheels were 6%.

Clearly, drivers did not understand what they were supposed to be looking for. So, the MTO and industry stakeholders agreed to promote a new standard to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) to achieve a uniform approach in all Canadian jurisdictions. And Ontario undertook a pilot project to “road test” the proposed new standard in 2001.

Developed and conducted jointly by MTO, OTA, the PMTC, the Ontario Motor Coach Association and the Ontario School Bus Association, the pilot was conducted for six months with the participation of 300 truck drivers from 13 carriers and 60 motor coach and school bus drivers from four carriers.

In May 2006, CCMTA adopted the new national safety code standard for daily vehicle (trip) inspections, based on the new regulations as piloted in Ontario. Provinces have until Jan. 1, 2008 to implement them.

Ontario is among the first (Saskatchewan actually begins hard enforcement of the regulations on July 1) to implement the new rules.

Ontario’s new daily trip inspection regulations can be viewed online at: www.e-laws.gov.on.ca under the Highway Traffic Act section. The new regs are called Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspections O/Reg 199/07.