Thoughts must have been churning in dump truck driver Navpreet Singh’s mind as he was directed into the truck inspection lanes along Steeles Avenue in Halton Hills, Ont., on May 16.
Did the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) officer who pulled him over notice something wrong with his truck, or did he do something wrong while driving?
Singh followed the instructions given by Constable Darren Bonney, a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)-certified inspector and waited calmly as his vehicle was inspected.
HRPS officers were pulling over commercial motor vehicles as part of International Roadcheck, the CVSA’s 72-hour commercial motor vehicle and driver inspection and enforcement initiative taking place until May 18.
This year inspectors in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are focusing on anti-lock braking systems and cargo securement.
After about 40 minutes Bonney declared that Singh’s vehicle had no defects, congratulated the driver and affixed a CVSA decal on his windshield. “I am happy I passed the inspection. It is good for the company I drive for too,” said a beaming Singh as he drove off.
Other trucks inspected did not have similar happy outcomes. Officers kept finding one defect after another as a steady stream of vehicles arrived at the inspection lane.
Overloaded vehicles, insecure loads, brake problems, and even a leaking fuel tank plugged with grease were among the defects found.
Const. Bonney said a pre-trip inspection is just as important to the driver as the company. Defects can be fixed before they leave the yard instead of being found by an officer during inspection.
“I would rather educate drivers before enforcement. That’s why we are on social media, send out emails and do publicity, so that people can be educated,” he said.
Bonney and some other officers present said they pull over vehicles that have visible issues. During the first day of Roadcheck this year, many of the vehicles in the inspection lane were dump trucks as the area has a lot of construction activity and quarries.
Constable Mark Dickson, an experienced CVSA-certified inspector said overloaded trucks from job sites are a big problem in the region. The loads are comprised of heavy shale or clay-based material.
“The owner-operators sometimes know they are overloaded but don’t have the ability to say no,” he said. They are paid by the load and if they refuse, they don’t get the load.
“We try to get to job sites to deal with these companies that are loading the trucks and charge the operators who overload the vehicles,” he added.
Dickson said loaders have to pay around $50 for a dump ticket at quarries for a fill. If a job requires 400 truckloads of material removed and they can do it with 300 truckloads, they are saving the company money. “It’s 100 times $50. The loaders are encouraged to load extra material in the trucks.”
He added that police are not trying to put owner-operators out of business. “But we have responsibility to the region that the roads are not going to be crushed by these overloaded trucks,” he said.
Dickson also noted that paying drivers by the load encourages speeding and poor driving habits as they race around to complete as many loads as they can. Maintenance slides as vehicles are operated for longer periods of time.
“It is a toxic mix of circumstances. The industry needs to stop the pay by the load situation. A flat rate wage would be better,” he said.
He’s also noticed dump trucks running in packs of four or five vehicles. This is deliberate, he said, because the mentality is that there is only a 25% or 20% chance of being pulled over.
An officer nearby confirmed this, pointing out a truck awaiting inspection. “They were five of them heading out of job site,” he said. “This guy was the one I pulled over.”
6,000 kg overweight
The load was visible sitting high in the trailer. When weighed, it was found to be 6,000 kg overweight.
Officials from Halton Hills who visited the inspection site said residents want safe roads and truck drivers must be responsible for safety.
Tool in a toolbox
Maureen Van Ravens, the town’s director of transportation, said the inspection blitz is a tool in a toolbox. Educating drivers is the first step and enforcement is the last.
Regional councilor Clark Somerville said vehicles must be safe when they are on the road and must follow rules.
By mid-morning, inspectors had already put five commercial vehicles out of service and issued dozens of tickets.
The police officers’ uniforms were caked in dust and mud. Some had grease on their forearms and faces as they inspected vehicle after vehicle.
Some drivers were sent on their way with a smile, others received tickets, yet others were put out of service until the defects were repaired. One vehicle’s plates were removed and was to be towed away.
The inspectors made it a point to explain the situation to each driver and hope the inspection also educates them about safety. “It’s a better day if the driver learns something after the inspection,” Const. Dickson said.
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