Ontario Mandates 20% Inspection Failure Rate
By Rolf Lockwood with files from Jason Rhyno
TORONTO — Quotas do exist in the enforcement community.
Internal Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) documents obtained by Today's Trucking reveal what many in the trucking industry have long suspected regarding 'quotas' for truck inspectors. At the same time they raise questions about the legitimacy of published out-of-service rates. And about the effect they have on the public's perception of the trucking industry.
While the word 'quota' is never used, a document entitled 'TEO2 2013 Performance Expectations' outlines performance standards, the specific numbers and percentages that MTO truck inspectors are instructed to reach:
"A minimum of 60% of available time inspecting CMVs [commercial motor vehicles];
"This must equal a minimum of 600 level 1, 2 or 5 inspections;
"Of which 120 must be level 1;
"A minimum 20% OOS [out of service] rate on level 1 & 2 inspections combined;
"A minimum charge rate of 20% (i.e. at least 20% of all inspections have 1 or more charges);
"A reasonable balance of inspections based on axle counts as determined by each district's CMV makeup."
In a second document — an e-mail sent to undisclosed recipients — the author reiterates the above expectations, then reminds the recipients that "the charge rate and OOS rate are also being monitored […] Please work towards these goals. That may mean for some of you less inspections but more quality inspections. Basically do what you have to do to meet those numbers."
Asked for comment on the issue, MTO spokesperson Bob Nichols said that, "In order to ensure consistency and integrity within the Enforcement Program, a 20% charge rate expectation has been set for Transportation Enforcement Officers. The 20% rate is consistent with what has historically been the Enforcement Program charge rate since 1990."
Which begs the question if it is even possible for the trucking industry to attain compliance better than 80%. Clearly, it's not.
"If such a quota system exists (and I have no doubt it does — in every arm of the enforcement industry), then it is virtually impossible for us to achieve any better than an 80% compliance rate, except by accident when they fail to meet their quota, which undoubtedly has a concomitant impact on the commercial insurance industry, public perception of truckers, etc.," says Greg Swain, a veteran driver and former driver trainer. Nowadays he pulls B-train fuel tankers around southern Ontario.
"Most insidious of all," he adds, "is how such a government sponsored revenue-generating... enforcement system makes a mockery of the government published statistics that paint the transportation industry in such a publicly negative light."
Critics, Today's Trucking included, have long contended that published out-of-service rates do not reflect with any accuracy the mechanical condition of trucks on the road or, more to the point, the extent to which they're unsafe. Minor infractions — especially those involving brake adjustment — can take trucks off the road when they're not in fact unsafe at all and when a simple roadside fix is readily done.
Long-time safety and training consultant Ken Hellawell, operating under the ProTrans banner but now mostly retired, suggests that many of the Ministry's truck inspectors don't have sufficient expertise to check brakes properly in the first place.
And as for an arbitrary 20% failure rate, Hellawell says, "To me it sounds like too much."
We'll pursue this issue further in the days and weeks ahead, including more detailed coverage in Today's Trucking magazine.