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More Oversight of Commercial Vehicles Needed to Improve Road Safety in Ontario, Auditor General Says

The audit concluded that the Ministry of Transportation missed the opportunity to remove thousands of unsafe commercial vehicles and drivers from Ontario roads.

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The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is demanding the government increase the number of vehicle safety inspectors in the wake of a recent report from Ontario’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, who says the province had higher commercial vehicle fatality and injury rates than Canada as a whole and the U.S. for most of 2008 to 2017.

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According to the report, “The audit found that between 2014 and 2018, the number of Ministry inspections decreased by 22%. The Ministry attributed the decline to its inability to fill enforcement-officer vacancies, and to the fact that a majority of enforcement officers did not meet their individual annual targets for inspections.

“As a result, the audit concluded that the Ministry missed the opportunity to remove thousands of unsafe commercial vehicles and drivers from Ontario roads. Injuries and damages from collisions involving big commercial vehicles tend to be more serious because of the size of the vehicles.”

“The auditor general notes that ministry inspections have declined by 22% since 2014,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a press release. “But she fails to point out that the quality of inspections has also nose-dived. It’s easy to stop trucks that are a simple and clean inspection to meet ministry quantitative targets. But easy inspections don’t take bad trucks and bad operators off the road.”

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According to the auditor’s report, specific concerns include:

  • “More than half of Ontario’s 60,000 carriers have not had any of their commercial vehicles inspected by the Ministry in the last two years, including many at the highest risk of future collisions.
  • “Most roadside inspections are performed by Ministry enforcement officers on provincial highways. This allows ‘local haulers’ to avoid inspection by operating primarily on municipal and urban roads. The audit found that from 2014 to 2018, approximately 68% of collisions involving trucks belonging to Ontario-registered carriers occurred on municipal roads.
  • “The Ministry approves organizations, including carriers that operate commercial vehicles, to train and test their own drivers for commercial-vehicle driver licenses. The audit found that between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019, drivers tested by carriers had a pass rate of 95%, compared with just 69% at Ministry-licensed DriveTest centers. One-quarter of the carriers that tested their own drivers ranked among the worst 1% of all carriers for at-fault collisions.
  • “The Ministry has no information on the annual inspection of commercial vehicles performed by the Motor Vehicle Inspection Station (MVIS) garages or the certificates they issued. As a result, the Ministry has not investigated many instances where MVIS garages ordered excessive quantities of paper-based, blank inspection certificates. MVIS garages inspect and certify vehicles, but the Ministry has no automated controls to flag excessive ordering of inspection certificates. This creates the risk that garages could be distributing or selling the inspection certificates they order but do not need, or are issuing certificates without actually inspecting vehicles.
  • “The Ministry does not require Service Ontario to ask for proof of a valid annual or semi-annual inspection certificate when renewing commercial vehicle license plates. Enforcement officers found almost 7,500 instances where commercial vehicles did not have a valid annual or semi-annual inspection certificate during 2017 and 2018, indicating a significant problem.”

Thomas, Ontario Public Service Employees Union president, also claimed that hiring pools have shrunk “because of the very difficult, even hazardous, working conditions. If this government is serious about making our roads safe, they’ll have to make the job more desirable so we can attract the quality and quantity of officers that Ontario’s drivers need and expect,” he said.

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