OPSEU is demanding the government significantly increase the number of vehicle safety inspectors in the wake of a damning report from Ontario’s Auditor General. Bonnie Lysyk says the province had higher commercial vehicle fatality and injury rates than Canada as a whole and the U.S. for most of 2008 to 2017.
“The Auditor General notes that ministry inspections have declined by 22 per cent since 2014,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “But she fails to point out that the quality of inspections has also nose-dived. It’s easy to stop trucks that are a simple and clean inspection to meet ministry quantitative targets. But easy inspections don’t take bad trucks and bad operators off the road.”
In addition to the ministry’s obsession with numbers, officers point to a culture of reacting to situations that arise – rather than acting to prevent them in the first place.
“Our officers and auditors are frustrated by the continuous stonewalling efforts of management,” said Thomas. “Government bean counters allow for zero professional discretion in terms of letting frontline officers’ experience and expertise dictate which rigs should be inspected.
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says the ministry can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that quantity doesn’t equal quality. “Yes, we have to get back that 22 per cent we lost. But we also need to hire enough inspectors so they have the time to check the bad trucks and the bad operators. They’re the ones putting Ontario lives in grave danger.
“What’s more, motor vehicle inspection station reviews have little to no value when they’re mostly based on public complaints and disregard concerns about the industry itself, not to mention the concerns of our officers – the ones who best know what’s really happening,” Almeida added.
One chronic problem the ministry has not addressed is hiring and retention. Being an enforcement officer and auditor comes with threats, violence and exposure to extreme weather, as well as coming into contact with chemicals and biohazards. Officers work long, irregular hours and must maintain a professional manner when dealing with unco-operative operators and businesses.
“The Ministry of Transportation continues to see hiring pools shrink substantially because of the very difficult, even hazardous, working conditions,” warned Thomas. “If this government is serious about making our roads safe, they’ll have to make the job more desirable so we can attract the quality and quantity of officers that Ontario’s drivers need and expect.”