Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Safety Manual

Module 5 - Ontario Specific Enforcement Issues


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, mobile equipment vehicles or trailers and/or any combination of these vehicles that have a registered gross weight or actual weight of more than 4,500 kilograms
  • Tow trucks, regardless of 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 Operator’s 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.

Ontario Specific Enforcement Issues - Learning Objectives

As you work through this module, you will develop an understanding of:

  • The commercial vehicle impound process
  • Violations that can result in a vehicle being impounded and the effects of having a vehicle impounded under the program
  • Who has the authority to impound your vehicle
  • Speed-limiter requirements
  • Which vehicles require a speed limiter and the benefits to your business by reducing the speed of large trucks

Commercial Vehicle Impoundment Program


On February 2, 1998, the Government of Ontario introduced the Commercial Vehicle Impoundment Program (CVIP) as part of its aggressive campaign to improve commercial vehicle safety in this province.  This program was a principal recommendation of Target '97, a joint industry/government task force that has worked together closely to improve truck safety in Ontario. 

Commercial Vehicle Impoundment

Commercial vehicle impoundment is part of a progressive enforcement program where critically defective commercial vehicles are impounded for a minimum of 15 days.  Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to impound commercial vehicles for critical defects.

If one or more critical defects are found on a bus, truck or trailer, an officer will remove the plates and inspection stickers from the specific vehicle unit.  Vehicles will not be impounded for defects found that meet the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) out-of-service criteria.  

A vehicle found with a critical defect would be in far worse condition than a vehicle that just meets the out-of-service criteria.

If a vehicle is found to have critical defects, the Deputy Registrar of Motor Vehicles issues an order to impound the vehicle and suspend the vehicle registration.  The vehicle's load will be removed at the inspection location and the vehicle will be transported, by a third-party contractor, to a secure impound facility.

The vehicle must remain at the impound facility for the designated period.  After this period, the owner may claim the vehicle after all costs associated with the towing, removal and impoundment have been paid. The vehicle must then obtain a Safety Standards Certificate certifying it as safe before it can be operated in Ontario. Safety Standards Certificates can only be issued by a licenced Motor Vehicle Inspection Station after the vehicle is released from the impound facility.   Commercial vehicles that are abandoned at impound facilities will be disposed of under the provisions of the Repair and Storage Liens Act.

Vehicles That Can Be Impounded

Any commercial motor vehicle that is operated by a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) or National Safety Code (NSC) holder, or one that would require CVOR or NSC registration, and has a gross weight or registered gross weight exceeding 4,500 kilograms may be subject to impound if it is operated with critical defects.  This includes buses, trucks and trailers drawn by these vehicles. This also includes all tow trucks, regardless of weight.


Ambulances, fire vehicles, hearses, casket wagons, and motor homes are not affected by this legislation.

What Is a Critical Defect?

The critical-defect criteria set out clear guidelines for determining when defects are serious enough to be considered critical to the safe operation of a commercial vehicle or trailer.  These criteria have been developed for brakes, wheels and rims, steering, tires and suspension/frame components.

Commercial vehicles are in a significantly greater state of disrepair when impounded for critical defects than when they are taken out of service for failing to meet international standards set by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).  For example, a vehicle is placed out of service if 20 percent or more of its wheels have brake defects.  However, this defect would be considered critical if more than 50 percent of its wheels have brake defects.

The critical-defect criteria, which were developed by government and industry, are detailed in Regulation 512/97 of the Highway Traffic Act.  Copies of the regulations are available on the E-Laws website.

Locations for Critical-Defect Inspections and impoundment

Inspections for critical defects and impoundment are carried out at specified truck-inspection stations across the province. These stations are selected for their strategic location and their exposure to high volumes of commercial traffic.

CVIP Affect on Buses

Buses, including school buses and motor coaches, are commercial vehicles and are subject to impoundment.

Consequences of Vehicles Impounded under CVIP

After the vehicle is inspected and found to have critical defects, charges are laid against the owner and/or operator and/or driver.  The vehicle is then impounded for a prescribed period.  Before the impounded vehicle is removed from the inspection site, it must be off-loaded, repaired and put in a safe condition for towing.  Vehicles that cannot be made safe for towing must be placed on a flat-bed trailer and transported to the impound facility.

The impoundment period is 15 days for the first incident within a two-year period.  A second incident within two years will result in a 30-day impoundment.  A third or subsequent incident within two years carries a 60-day impoundment.

The operator will be charged with "operating an unsafe vehicle" and is responsible for all costs associated with the removal, transfer and storage of the load.

The owner is also liable for the fees and costs associated with towing and impoundment, and cannot use the vehicle for doing business during the impoundment period.

The driver may also be subject to charges.  Fines for safety-related offences are set out in the Provincial Offences Act and may be as high as $20,000.

When the impound period is complete, the vehicle is released by the Deputy Registrar and must be towed or floated to a qualified repair facility.  The vehicle cannot be driven on any Ontario highway until it has been inspected and a safety standards certificate has been issued.  Only then will plates and permits be reissued for the vehicle.

Cost of Impoundment

The fees charged for towing, floating, storage of vehicles and goods, and the transfer of loads are established in contracts between MTO and impound facilities.

Although a reasonable fee schedule has been established, they may be higher where towing distances are longer or in urban areas where commercial property costs may be higher. This is a user-pay system, whereby the impound facility is paid directly by the owner/operator responsible for the vehicle and load.

Impound Facilities

Impound facilities are located within a reasonable towing distance of the inspection location that they serve.  One impound facility may provide service to more than one inspection location if the facility is in close proximity to multiple inspection sites.

The selection of impound facilities is based upon their ability to provide secure, reliable service at a reasonable cost.

What Happens to the Load?

All impounded vehicles must be off-loaded at the inspection site.  The load must then be transferred to another vehicle.

This transfer of loads and loss of perishable cargo is the responsibility of the operator of the vehicle.  Where buses are impounded, the operator is responsible for providing alternate transportation to the passengers.

Appeal Process

The owner of the vehicle is the only party who can appeal the impoundment. An appeal may be made to the Licence Appeal Tribunal on one of two grounds:

  1. If the vehicle was stolen
  2. If the critical defect was not present at the time of the daily inspection

During the appeal, the owner may apply to the Superior Court of Justice to have the vehicle released from the impound facility after all fees and towing charges have been paid and security has been posted. The Superior Court of Justice will set security of between $5,000 and $10,000.

If the appeal is successful, the owner will be reimbursed by the Crown for the cost of towing and impound fees.

If the Order to Impound and Suspend is not overturned, the owner must return the vehicle to the impound facility for the remainder of the period or forfeit the posted security.

Appeals will be conducted orally unless a written hearing is requested and agreed upon. Hearings will be heard as quickly as possible and decided on within 30 days where required. Appeals may be heard in numerous locations across Ontario.

Effect on Your CVOR Record

The impoundment will be recorded on the operator's CVOR record and applicable points will be assigned.

For further information contact:

Ministry of Transportation
Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch
Commercial Vehicle Impoundment Program
301 St. Paul Street, 3rd Floor
St. Catharines, ON L2R 7R4
Telephone: (416) 246-7166 or 1-800-387-7736 (in Ontario only)
Fax: (905) 704-2683

Mandatory Truck Speed Limiters

A speed limiter is an electronic device that is installed in heavy trucks, and caps the speed at a maximum of 105 km/h. Most large trucks driven in Ontario are required to use speed limiters.

Studies conducted by the federal government, through Transport Canada, have demonstrated the environmental, safety and cost-saving benefits of speed limiters. Ontario and Québec worked together to jointly launch and implement speed-limiter regulations.

Trucks That Require Speed Limiters

If a commercial motor vehicle was built after December 31, 1994, with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of 11,794 kilograms or more, and is equipped with an electronic control module, then the vehicle is subject to being speed limited.  Exemptions to these apply only to a limited number of vehicle types such as ambulances or fire trucks.


Ontario passed legislation and supporting regulations to mandate the use of speed limiters on commercial vehicles in 2008. Links to the legislation and regulations can be found below:


Police and MTO enforcement officers use both existing traffic-control techniques and portable electronic testing units to verify the activation of a vehicle speed limiter at a maximum of 105 km/h.

The use of portable electronic testing units provides access to the vehicle engine data, and confirms if the limiter has been activated at a speed of 105 km/h or less. It is necessary for officers to plug into a data port located within the cab of the truck. Failure to assist with or allow the inspection will result in charges.


  • Reducing the speed of a vehicle will result in lower fuel consumption that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and saves money on fuel purchases.
  • Drivers expose themselves to a number of dangers by exceeding speed limits. Driving at higher speeds induces stress that results in fatigue and loss of concentration. Speeding makes it more difficult to react to changes, stop suddenly and control the vehicle – and, in case of a collision, the higher the speed, the more severe the collision.
  • Setting speed limiters at 105 km/h or less will reduce the operating costs of many transportation companies by reducing fuel consumption and increasing vehicle energy efficiency.
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