Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Safety Manual

Module 2 - Getting Started


The Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario has prepared this guide to assist and ensure that truck and bus companies (commercial vehicle operators) operate safely and are compliant with the regulations that govern highway use. Ontario, other provinces, the Government of Canada and the transportation industry developed the rules and regulations to help reduce the number and severity of collisions. Each jurisdiction has used the National Safety Code standards as guides in drafting their own transportation safety legislation. This approach promotes uniformity across Canada and helps to ensure that the transportation industry remains as viable and sustainable as possible.

This guide applies to Ontario operators of commercial motor vehicles that are:

  • Trucks, tractors or trailers, or a combination of these vehicles, that have a registered gross vehicle weight or actual weight of more than 4,500 kilograms
  • Tow trucks, regardless or registered gross weight or actual weight
  • Buses with a manufactured seating capacity of 10 persons or more, excluding the driver
  • Accessible vehicles and school-purposes vehicles, depending upon use

The guide contains several modules, each dealing with a specific topic. To get a complete picture of compliance requirements, you should obtain the complete guide. If you intend to use certain parts of this guide only (for example, Module 1, "Getting Started”) it is recommended that you also obtain the modules "Introduction” and "Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Registration.”

This is a guide only and is not meant to be a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations. This guide highlights some important legal provisions but is not an exhaustive description of all the laws that apply.

Getting Started - Learning Objectives

As you work through this module, you will be able to:

  • Review information about, and consider writing, a business plan.
  • Obtain information and requirements from the three levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal.
  • Apply to be a registrant in the International Registration Plan (IRP).
  • Report fuel taxes when operating in different jurisdictions under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA).
  • Understand some of the items to consider when setting up a truck or bus business. It is important to do as much in-depth research as possible on each of these items before getting on the road.

For information on how to apply for a Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Registration (CVOR) certificate see Module 4.

Starting Your Business - and the Business Plan

Doing a bit of research, deciding what you really want to do, and putting that in a business plan will guide you toward success. Your business plan will also be useful if you require assistance from bankers, accountants and lawyers.

There are many resources available to help you write a business plan. These are available from libraries, bookstores or the Ontario government website for business and economy..

You can use these resources to write your own plan, or you could hire a professional to help you. Whatever you decide to do, initially at least, your business plan should be fairly simple and easily updated.

Once you have a clear idea of what you will be doing, you will need to set up the business. In Ontario, businesses can be set up based upon your circumstances, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited (incorporated entity) company. Each of these has different setup procedures, legal requirements and financial consequences. Since you may eventually need a legal representative to set up your business, it is worthwhile discussing with a lawyer the type of business that meets your needs.

Financial accounting is very important for the successful operation of any business. As part of preparing your business plan, you should consult an accountant to discuss financial record- keeping, business forms, choosing an appropriate year-end, tax and other records, as well as accounting fees.

In summary, you should:

  • Talk to your banker about the bank’s requirements.
  • Talk to your accountant about accounting requirements.
  • Set up your company using the services of a lawyer.
  • Develop a business plan.

You may also decide to do all of the above on your own. For most people, this is a real challenge. It will take you away from your core business activities and use up valuable time. Spending a few hundred dollars working with your accountant and a legal firm may be well worth it.

The Canadian Business Network website offers links to tools and guides designed to assist you with developing your business idea, preparing a business plan, assessing your entrepreneurial qualities – as well as providing an overview of the benefits and challenges of owning a small business.

Starting a Business

There are several tools and resources available to ensure that you have all the requirements to operate your business. The following sources will help you identify: permit requirements, tax accounts, employee payroll deductions, insurance requirements, registering your business and so on.

Requirements specific to truck and bus operators are outlined in future modules of this guide, such as "Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Registration.”

When you are starting a new business, it is recommended that you investigate your requirements at all levels of government – municipal, provincial/territorial and federal. As a commercial motor vehicle operator, you also should be knowledgeable of the requirements for the jurisdictions in which you operate.

What follows are sources and links to assist new business owners.

Municipal Government

Each municipal government (city, town or county/rural municipality) has the authority to issue its own business licences within its jurisdiction. Since each municipality differs, you should consult with officials to decide how your business will be affected by local regulations, taxation, licences or zoning requirements. You may also need to obtain licences in municipalities in which you are not located but carry on business.

Depending upon the type of business you have, other regulations may apply: health and safety, fire, transportation, environmental legislation, labour laws and so on. For more information on municipal regulations and licences, contact the clerk of the city, town, village or rural municipality where you plan to do business. The telephone numbers are available in the telephone book or through directory assistance.

Provincial Government

To assist new or future business owners, Ontario has a web section called Business and Economy with information that includes:

Starting a Business Operating a Business
  • Planning a Business
  • Understanding the Marketplace
  • Registering a Business
  • Obtaining Financing
  • Getting Permits and Licences
  • Hiring and Managing Staff
  • Developing Facilities and Property
  • Marketing and Selling
  • Researching, Growing and Innovating
  • Greening Your Business
  • Finding Legal Services
  • Filing Taxes and Tax Information
  • Incorporating Your Business
  • Selling to Government
  • Exiting a Business

Ontario Ministry of Finance provides tools for tax requirements.

Ontario Ministry of Labour provides tools for employees, including employment standards and health and safety.

Federal Government

New or future business owners can find assistance from the federal government with its information online at Canadian Business Networks:

Starting a Business

  • Is Entrepreneurship for You?
  • Developing Your Ideas
  • Developing Your Business Plan
  • Business Name and Registration
  • Buying a Business
  • Forms of Business Organization
  • Financing Your Business
  • Choosing and Setting Up a Location
  • Checklists and Guides for Starting a Business
About Canadian Business
  • Starting a Business
  • Growth and Innovation
  • Grants and Finances
  • Taxes
  • Regulations, Licences and Permits
  • Export, Import and Foreign Investment
  • Hiring and Managing Staff
  • Business Planning
  • Management and Operations
  • Market Research and Statistics
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Selling to Government
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property
  • Environment and Business
  • Exiting Your Business

Revenue Canada has additional tools for tax requirements and wage deduction including a publication called RC4070 Guide for Canadian Small Businesses. See the Canada Revenue Agency website for more information.

International Registration Plan (IRP)

IRP is a North American agreement for the distribution of commercial vehicle registration fees. Operators with Ontario-plated vehicles operating in other jurisdictions can apply through the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario prorate offices for registration in other Canadian provinces or territories, or in individual states of the US.

Ontario implemented IRP on April 1, 2001. With the exception of charter or tour buses, all operators travelling outside Ontario with vehicles having a gross vehicle weight in excess of 11,793 kilograms or more than three axles, regardless of weight, should register in IRP. Otherwise, these operators will have to purchase trip permits to travel outside Ontario.

Charter or tour buses have full and free vehicle registration reciprocity in most states and provinces. For this reason, these bus operators have the option of registering in IRP or operating with only their home province/territory registration. Operators should check to see if the jurisdiction(s) they will be travelling into or through grant charter- or tour-bus reciprocity. Buses that operate in inter-jurisdictional, line-run (scheduled) services must register in IRP.

The IRP provides blanket registration for trucks and buses as an alternative to individual reciprocity agreements, and distributes truck and bus registration fees among member jurisdictions based on the number of kilometres operators travel in other jurisdictions. Vehicles will have one licence-plate and registration document (cab card), which allows travel in all jurisdictions noted on the card.

Registering with IRP

  • One registration to operate in the provinces and states
  • One province or state to deal with for the IRP licence and to remit registration fees
  • One province or state that collects the registration fees and distributes the fees to all IRP provinces and states

IRP Application Process

Operators may hand in or fax IRP applications to their local prorate offices. Once they receive an application, it will be processed and a fee notice will be sent to the operator. If changes are required, the operator should contact the prorate office and send in a revised application. Once the operator is satisfied with the application, payment can be made to the local prorate office. Credentials will be given in person to the operator by the prorate staff, or sent to the operator by mail. Courier service is available at the expense of the operator. Any original documents required for the transaction must be made available to the prorate office before the credentials are released.

Under the IRP, an operator files an application in their home jurisdiction. The IRP agreement allows the base jurisdiction to collect the registration fees for the other IRP jurisdictions. These fees are based upon mileage and weight information submitted by the operator.

The base jurisdiction issues cab cards for each vehicle. The cab card is the only licence credential needed to operate a vehicle in all the member IRP jurisdictions. It lists all the IRP jurisdictions and corresponding weights that the operator has requested.

All member IRP jurisdictions are required to comply with the following three basic concepts:

  1. Issuance of an apportioned licence plate
  2. Issuance of a single registration document (or cab card)
  3. Allowance to operate within or between jurisdictions

An IRP apportioned registration does NOT:

  • Exempt an operator from the payment of motor-fuel taxes in any province or state
  • Exempt an operator from obtaining a bus operating authority licence and/or a Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Registration
  • Permit an operator to exceed maximum height, length, width and axle limitations

Information and registration forms are available through the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario website.

Sample Ontario Apportioned Cab Card

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA)

The province of Ontario is a member of IFTA.  This agreement among Canadian provinces/territories and American states simplifies the reporting of fuel taxes by commercial vehicle operators who do business in more than one member province/territory or state.

In order to register under IFTA, the minimum registered gross vehicle-weight requirement is more than 11,797 kilograms (26,000 pounds) or a unit with three or more axles, regardless of weight.

When to Register with IFTA?

You should register for IFTA with Ontario if:
  1. Your commercial vehicles are considered a qualified motor vehicle.  This means a motor vehicle used for business purposes and
    • has three or more axles, or
    • weighs more than 11,797 kilograms (vehicle or vehicle and trailer).
    • For full details, refer to the definition of qualified motor vehicle.
  2. You have an established place of business in Ontario where you maintain operational control of your qualified motor vehicles.
  3. You keep records for your qualified motor vehicles in Ontario or make these records available to the Ontario Ministry of Finance.
  4. Your qualified motor vehicles travel in Ontario and at least one other province or state.

Registering with IFTA

  • One fuel-use licence to operate in the provinces and states
  • One province or state to deal with for the IFTA licence and to report motor fuel taxes
  • One province or state that collects the motor fuel taxes from you and distributes the taxes to all IFTA provinces and states based on distance travelled

The Ontario ministries of Transportation and Finance have established an industry advisory committee for IRP and IFTA.  This group is composed of representatives from the Ontario Trucking Association, the Ontario Motor Coach Association, the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, permitting agencies, private trucking firms and representatives from both ministries.  The committee meets when needed to discuss issues regarding IRP service delivery in Ontario.

Information is available from the Ministry of Finance website or by calling 1-866-ONT-TAXS (1-866-668-8297) or TTY: 1-800-263-7776.

Sample International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) License

Sample Sample International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) License

Basic Travellers Information such as: interactive maps, road maps, weather conditions, construction, border information etc. can be found on the MTO website:

Border Wait Times can be found on the Canadian Border Services Agencies website:

Free and Secure Trade information can be found on the Canadian Border Services Agencies website:

Other Canadian Sites

Transport Canada
Ontario provincial government
British Columbia provincial government
Alberta provincial government
Saskatchewan provincial government
Manitoba provincial government
Quebec provincial government
Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government
Nova Scotia provincial government
New Brunswick provincial government
Prince Edward Island provincial government
Northwest Territories government
Yukon territorial government
Nunavut territorial government
Canadian Council of Motor Transportation Administrators (CCMTA)

US. Sites

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Federal Highway Administration
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