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Teamwork Delivers New Design Concept

A recent Value Engineering (VE) study has resulted in the first new design concepts for commercial vehicle inspection facilities in thirty years. The Ministry of Transportation Ontario has been inspecting commercial vehicles for more than 40 years in a continued effort to keep Ontario's roads safe. MTO utilizes an extensive network of truck inspection stations, ranging from simple widened shoulders (truck lay-bys), to complex stations with multiple lanes, static and Weigh-In-Motion (WIM) scales, buildings, and off-line inspection areas (truck inspection stations).

The ministry's standards for truck inspection stations were developed in the seventies and eighties to ensure stations efficiently and effectively weigh commercial vehicles. Today, the focus for inspection facilities has shifted to driver and mechanical fitness, in addition to weight enforcement. Driver and mechanical fitness inspection involves parking selected vehicles for detailed inspections.

Current designs emphasize efficient weighing of commercial vehicles, but were not optimized for selecting vehicles for inspection, or the parking of trucks taken out of service. Approximately 25 % of inspections result in vehicles being placed out of service and parked at the site to accommodate mandatory repairs. In addition, operators and/or drivers are subject to charges under the appropriate vehicle or driver safety legislation.

The discrepancy between dated design standards for truck inspection stations and the current inspection procedures created an opportunity for change. The introduction of hybrid concepts such as "super lay-bys" with portable inspection stations on new freeways highlighted the need to balance cost with worth.

Aerial photo of racetrack style CVIF

An aerial photograph of an existing
racetrack style Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility

VE design to replace racetrack-style layout

The VE design concept to replace CVIF
racetrack-style layouts commonly found on freeways (CVIF 2)

A VE study was selected as the ideal tool to build a consensus towards cost effective commercial vehicle inspection facility concepts that would meet current and future business needs, as well as the needs of inspectors and industry. In September 2002, four divisions within MTO participated in such a study to develop new layouts for Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facilities (CVIFs). The divisions involved were Road User Safety (Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch and enforcement staff from Field Operations and Central Region), Policy Planning and Standards (VE Services), Operations (Planning and Design), and Corporate Services (Occupational Health and Safety). The VE study was led by NCE Ltd.

The VE concept improves driver and vehicle screening and the deterrence impact of the facility. Building on procedures now being used at some existing facilities, vehicles may be stopped in a pre-inspection area, where enforcement officers may quickly access vehicle and driver fitness by conducting a preliminary check of the vehicle and interviewing the driver. The majority of vehicles will be allowed to complete the current trip or be directed to park for a detailed mechanical fitness and driver inspection. Vehicles suspected of being overloaded may be directed to the weigh scales for subsequent weight inspections.

Two CVIF designs were developed to re-configure the existing stations for preliminary vehicle-screening methods. CVIF 1 is a linear facility for low-volume sites with direct highway access. It will replace current linear designs as facilities are built or reconstructed. CVIF 2 (see diagram) will replace the current "racetrack" designs typically used on freeways, and is flexible to meet changing demands. Features such as a pre-inspection area, inspection bays/lanes, overhead canopies for weather protection, a bypass lane, and a static scale situated downstream of the pre-inspection zone, can be added when warranted. A large CVIF 2 is expected to save about 20 % in capital costs from a racetrack design. Existing racetrack-style truck inspection stations can be upgraded to the new concept within the existing property envelopes. The new concept is easier to plow, more effectively screens vehicles for detailed inspections, and improves out-of-service truck parking.

In addition to all the challenges of developing new concepts for truck inspection facilities and truck lay-bys, the MTO divisions involved in the study seldom have opportunities to work together. Enforcement staff participating in the study had no direct experience with design or design concepts, and Highway Engineering staff members were not familiar with the commercial vehicle enforcement process. The Value Engineering process, new to many of the participants, demonstrated the importance of a broad cross-section of employees working together as the VE team developed two exceedingly functional and innovative concepts for Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facilities.

"The co-operation and combined efforts of the four divisions involved in the VE study played an important role in developing such an effective design," said Peter Hurst, Director of the Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch. "We are very pleased with the overall process and final results."