NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. – “If a proper pre-trip is done, 90% of the stuff I find doing roadside inspections should be caught.”
That was the blunt message delivered by Const. Pat Martin, an officer with the Ontario Police Commercial Vehicle Committee (OPCVC), who was speaking June 14 at the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s annual conference. He was joined by Staff Sgt. Mike Hinsperger of the same organization to discuss road safety and inspection blitzes.
Last year, said Hinsperger, the police agencies making up the OPCVC conducted blitzes that included 1,837 commercial vehicle inspections, resulting in 1,574 charges and a startling 40% out-of-service rate. However, Hinsperger noted these are targeted inspections, so the high OOS rate doesn’t mean as much as the better rates resulting from Roadcheck.
“I have to throw a grain of salt in there,” he said of the results. “The type of enforcement we are doing is very subjective. When our officers see three trucks going down the road and one is a brand new Peterbilt and the other is a 1991 International Binder with parts falling off it, which one do you think we’re going to bring in for inspection? Yes, it’s a high out-of-service rate, however that out-of-service rate represents those vehicles we brought in for inspection.”
The good news is, 2018 results have improved so far, after about 12 years of consistently high OOS rates.
“The 2018 results we’ve been seeing have been vastly improved over what we have seen in the past,” Hinsperger said, noting they’ve been in the 22-28% OOS range at the blitzes conducted this year. “Hopefully we’ll see that trend continue.”
The most common defects found at these blitzes tend to be brakes that are out of adjustment, as well as load securement. Other issues that come up include: defective steering; unsafe trailers; cracked frames; defective tires; loose wheel fasteners; expired inspection reports; and false logbooks. But many of the mechanical items should be discovered during a proper pre-trip inspection, the officers noted.
“Loose wheel fasteners consistently come up,” said Hinsperger. “Drivers should be doing a thorough inspection of the vehicle before the vehicle goes on the road. How preventable is a loose wheel fastener? I’d say very.”
After highlighting a number of commercial vehicle violations Martin and Hinsperger have encountered in the field, the session moved to a question and answer format. PMTC delegates had plenty of questions about distracted driving, which Hinsperger said is now the number one cause of collisions.
He said there were nearly 65,000 crashes on Ontario’s 400-series highways in 2017, with most of them involving distraction.
“Distracted driving has surpassed impaired driving as the number one cause of collisions,” said Hinsperger.
“From what I see every day, it is a huge problem,” Martin agreed.
While the Highway Traffic Act doesn’t specifically address distracted driving, the enforcement officers pointed out careless driving charges can be laid if a driver is distracted. And it doesn’t have to be by a mobile phone.
“Say a person lost control drinking coffee or tuning the radio or reaching to pet a dog. Is that distracted driving? It’s called careless driving and that is the investigation avenue we will take,” Hinsperger explained.
Drivers can help roadside interactions with enforcement officers go more smoothly by being organized.
“The biggest thing for me is documents,” said Martin. “Are they in a nice folder? If a guy is looking under his seat for his pre-trip, that’s a big indicator for me that maybe I upgrade to a Level 2 or Level 1 inspection. If everything is in order, off he goes.”
Hinsperger urged fleets to make it easier for drivers to do their pre-trip inspections, by taking advantage of available tools such as pushrod stroke indicators, which make their jobs easier.
“Let’s make the job as easy as possible for the drivers,” he said. “It’s going to improve the safety of your trucks. Put things like tattletales on the pushrods so a driver can recognize quickly if it’s coming out of adjustment.”