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opinions John G. Smith

Clear the Way: Bypass programs perfect carrot to offset enforcement stick

Posted: March 30, 2017 by John G. Smith

I was introduced to the concept of a hospital triage by watching episodes of MASH in the 1970s and early ’80s. Centered around the happenings of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, the show’s TV doctors were regularly seen moving through the latest batch of wounded soldiers, deciding who could wait and who needed immediate attention. (They also looked for new ways to torment Frank Burns, but I digress.)

It’s about setting priorities — and it’s a concept that plays out during roadside inspections every day. Lights by roadside scales begin to flash, and trucks make their way toward inspectors. With the exception of random blitzes, companies that are known to have strong safety records are often waved on through. The equipment that looks a little questionable receives a closer look.

In the best-case scenarios, the safest trucks never have to pull of the highway in the first place. Pre-clearance programs like British Columbia’s Weigh2GoBC or Alberta’s Partners in Compliance electronically identify the trucks with the strongest safety records, and give most of them the green light to proceed on their way.

Carriers save costs associated with idling, delays, and the simple wear and tear that emerges when trucks need to gear down, brake and accelerate. Governments can focus stretched resources where they will make the biggest difference. There are environmental gains, too, thanks to reduced emissions. Weigh2GoBC alone estimates that it has saved the trucking industry about $19 million in time and fuel. And what driver wouldn’t be attracted by the chance to simply wave at a coop as they continue their journey?

That’s why it’s encouraging to see Manitoba and Ontario actively studying plans for pre-clearance programs of their own.

This is an ideal time to explore the options available with emerging mobile apps that can – in selected cases – replace capital-intensive infrastructure that relies on transponders.

No matter what type of technology is embraced, however, regulators should take a moment to think beyond provincial borders. Yes, the inspections undeniably fall under provincial jurisdictions, but we’d be missing a great opportunity if the designers of new programs failed to explore how they could communicate with one another. A fleet that is safe in Manitoba will undeniably be safe as it crosses into Ontario. It’s no wonder that Partners in Compliance carriers are recognized by Weigh2GoBC.

Surely there are ways to reduce the underlying administrative burdens for such programs, allowing fleets to apply for multiple programs at once. And must we really clutter windshields with separate transponders for each program, when a single model could do?

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators should be encouraged to explore an option like the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) that share files across state borders in the U.S. And this is clearly a topic that should be discussed around the board table of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

We don’t often have the opportunity to design anything from scratch when it comes to regulatory regimes. Let’s take a moment to find the common ground that’s possible.

 

 

 

 

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