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Where’s the MTO Quota Outrage?

Posted: August 1, 2014 by Rolf Lockwood

A couple of months ago I wrote about the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s utterly insidious quota system for truck inspectors. Having obtained two internal MTO documents that demanded its officers achieve a minimum 20 percent out-of-service rate in their examinations of our trucks and trailers, we finally had proof of what we’ve always suspected: Quotas are real.

Makes no difference how good we actually are. No matter what, our collective pass rate cannot exceed 80 percent.

I’d guess that at least some other jurisdictions have quota ­systems along the same lines, though I’ve yet to uncover proof.

What does that 80-percent maximum success rate do for our public image? What impact does it have on the insurance industry’s view of us? Or on the new recruits we so desperately need?

Why would anyone want to work as a driver — or even as a rate clerk, for that matter — if they perceived that 20 percent of the machinery they depend on was formally labelled unfit to be on the road?

But why no outrage? Why haven’t I seen the industry up in arms?

I’ve had emailed letters on this, of course, including one from a veteran player who asked exactly those questions. But the correspondence has come mostly from drivers and small-fleet operators who’ve been at the sharp end of this shameful system. We get such letters all the time anyway — and I mean all the time — but now they’re soaked in even more frustration.

Like this example: a driver who’d been stopped at a scale was fined more than $300 and put out of service for 72 hours because one of his fuel receipts had a different name for the town where he’d filled his tanks than the one he’d put in his log book. He went with what his GPS told him instead of looking at the actual receipt, which was from three days prior. The inspectors went over his truck for an hour but couldn’t find anything wrong — but after all that effort they had come up with something, so they nailed him for a very, very questionable log infraction. Another driver apparently suffered more or less exactly the same fate at about the same time at the same scale.

Now, my correspondent does a daily, dedicated run that’s only 330 miles and he was just 45 miles from home at the time. So it was quite obvious that he was neither tired nor cheating on his log.

“Unbelievable,” he concluded. I’d say worse.

Let’s go back to outrage. Is there anything else you do in your work or private life where you’d be satisfied knowing that the most you could achieve was 80 percent?

OK, maybe golf. And fishing.

But seriously, would you see a doctor if you thought he was officially only 80 percent good at what he does? Sure, 100 percent in anything is not a common score, but some people do get there sometimes, and we all have to think it’s possible. We need that target as motivation to be better. Who’s going to get excited about achieving 80 percent?

I could go on and on about the ways in which such a quota does serious harm to an industry that, for the most part, has been busting its hindquarter in recent years to be compliant with a vast and expanding array of safety rules and regs. If you own or manage a fleet of any size at all, you don’t need me to tell you what compliance costs. Just a decade ago you wouldn’t have considered needing to have a vice president of compliance on staff. Now you do.

So, am I wrong in thinking outrage is the right response here?

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