Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Safety Manual

Module 7 - Safety Programs, Record-Keeping and Driver Files


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.

Safety Programs, Record-Keeping and Driver Files Learning Objectives

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

  • Identify best practices of record-keeping and development of a safety program.
  • Understand the benefits of developing a safety program.
  • Identify the recommended components of a safety program.
  • Develop those policies that could be included in the safety program.
  • Understand the importance and benefit of a clear hiring, training and orientation process.
  • Develop a process for record-keeping.
  • Describe the requirements for a driver file.
  • Understand how, and what data to analyze, to keep an effective and current safety program.

Some aspects of this module provide guidance to operators with one or more employees.  It is understood that not all operators will have employees, however, the intent is to assist those who do and prepare owner operators for future growth.

Safety Programs

In Ontario, there are no legal requirements under the Highway Traffic Act to develop or maintain a safety program for your business.  However, it is considered a best practice to develop a program that addresses matters relating to the safe use and operation of commercial vehicles.

Why a Safety Program Is Good Practice

A safety program ensures that management has the information available to make proper decisions to establish safe working conditions for all operators and operator’s employees, coupled with heightened awareness of road-safety compliance. A good safety program will reduce property damage and, more importantly, prevent injuries and deaths. It is also a resource for the employees, to know and understand their rights and responsibilities.

Other legislation such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) may require additional components to a safety program. To consult the OHSA, access the regulation on the
E-Laws website.

or visit Ontario Ministry of Labour

or Federal Health and Safety

Who the Safety Program Is For

The safety program should apply to all employees involved in any function related to the truck or bus company, including but not limited to:

  • Full-time, part-time and temporary drivers of regulated vehicles
  • Person(s) managing/directing drivers, safety officers and maintenance personnel
  • Administrative staff performing safety-related functions
  • Person(s) repairing or fuelling vehicles
  • Safety officers

Due Diligence

Due diligence - a defence often used in courts - means that everything reasonable was established and implemented to prevent a violation or incident. So, when developing, maintaining and implementing a safety program, you must understand your legal responsibilities. You are required to develop policies and procedures, and keep records indicating clearly that you have fulfilled your responsibilities. Ignorance of the law is not a defence.

Here are some specific items that operators should consider to ensure due diligence:

  • Knowing acts and regulations and keeping up to date with the changes
  • Hiring qualified staff
  • Documenting the responsibilities of staff involved in safety-related areas, as well as the general responsibilities of all staff in the workplace (for example, log-book requirements or emergency procedures)
  • Educating staff on legislative requirements, company policies, procedures, rules and so on
  • Monitoring internal safety systems to ensure compliance to written policies and to legislative requirements
  • Informing staff of legislative or company policy changes
  • Disciplining staff and documenting actions when they happen
  • Keeping records to prove that a safety program has been established and implemented (for example, written policies and documenting training activities)

Due diligence requires that all policies, procedures and activities must be in place before collisions or violations occur.

Components of a Safety Program

A safety program or plan is a written document that outlines the safety practices and expectations for all employees within an operator’s organization. A program needs to be customized to meet all of the safety issues of the operator.

It is recommended that a safety program address at least the following issues:

  • Speed limits, seat-belt use, drug and alcohol use, defensive driving, fatigue management, load security, and fuelling
  • Proper records and recording of information, including bills of lading, manifests, dangerous-goods documents, time records, drivers’ daily logs, daily inspection reports and weigh slips
  • Policies indicating that drivers are expected to comply with the law, as well as policy and procedures related to driver training, responsibilities, conduct and discipline
  • Instructions for the use of safety equipment issued, including the use of flags and flares, fire extinguishers, goggles, and hard hats
  • Training for employees about safety laws and their application
  • An ongoing program for evaluating employees’ driving skills
  • Retention of complete records for each driver
  • Policies for ensuring that drivers are properly qualified for the type of vehicle that they operate

Communication is key to the success of a safety program. A system could be developed to ensure that:

  • Management is aware of all critical items that affect the company, so they can respond to problems that arise.
  • Items such as training, incidents, collisions, convictions and so on are documented.
  • Recall systems are set up for items such as annual inspections, expiry dates for drivers’ licences, drivers’ abstracts and schedules (for preventive maintenance, future training and so on).
  • Employees are trained, and trainers are qualified to give instruction.
  • Employees, by attending training, know what is required to be in compliance with the expectations outlined in the safety program.

Developing a Written Safety Program

Though not required, it is considered a best practice to develop a written safety program. You should develop a policy statement, procedures, training requirements, recording method, evaluation and the consequences of non-compliance. You should also tailor your safety program to your specific needs.

Written Policies, Procedures and Practices

Policies and procedures inform and direct the behaviour of employees in an organization.  Employees should be able to look up procedures for different situations.  Each operator should identify critical situations, and specify how each should be handled.  Corrective measures should be identified in anticipation of an unsafe event.  For example, a policy and procedures document outlining how to deal with a small fire in a terminal building or in a vehicle will inform the staff of what they should do in such a situation.  Training on how to use portable fire extinguishers would give employees the skills and confidence required to deal safely with this situation.


Employers have a legal obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to make sure that their staff is properly trained for the duties to which they are assigned.  After hiring, train all employees and re-train when necessary, to ensure that they will be able to carry out their responsibilities efficiently and safely.

Keep a record of all staff training in the employee’s file.


The operator should have procedures to evaluate the critical tasks.  For example, reviewing drivers’ daily logs for completeness and accuracy is one means of evaluation.


The operator should clearly identify the consequences of not complying with, or refusing to comply with, the adopted policies and procedures.  Monitoring of compliance, and any disciplinary actions that result, should be progressive in nature and recorded.

Components of a Comprehensive Safety Program

What follows are important issues that should be considered in your safety program.

The Hiring Process

Drivers can be an operator's most valuable asset, or its biggest liability. Care should be taken to ensure that your company attracts and develops qualified, professional drivers. Selective hiring of safe, skilled drivers with good work habits, who fit into the company environment, helps minimize employee turnover and reduces training costs.

The following are tips for developing good hiring practices:

  • Designate one person to oversee the hiring of new drivers.
  • Consider how you advertise for new drivers. You may look to employees for referrals. If you advertise, stress your high standards, safety requirements and exclusive hiring practices.
  • Focus on an applicant's positive attitude, trainability and then relevant experience. It is much easier to train a new driver with a good attitude than to change the attitude of an experienced driver.
  • Choose a maximum violation and collision threshold for new hires that you feel is reasonable. Consider if your threshold will include preventable collisions only, or all collisions. Do not hire the applicant if the threshold is exceeded.
  • Look for a minimum experience level for new hires. If you cannot find an experienced driver, you may want to look at an applicant who displays the proper attitude and aptitude for training. Consider what type of equipment the candidate would be using. You may want to assign new hires to yard, dock or local duty for a probationary period.
  • Conduct a personal interview to evaluate attitude, literacy and language skills. Consider the following in your interview process:
    • Question any employment gaps shown on a résumé.
    • Have a second interviewer confirm the candidate's potential and capabilities.
    • Follow up by contacting references and past employers.
    • Look for positive attributes during the interview. These positive attributes include manners, professionalism, being open-minded to change, team-player orientated and so on. You want to hire an applicant who will fit into your company.
    • If the applicant has worked for a number of companies, find out why. Avoid hiring drivers with past performance problems.
    • Evaluate the financial performance of owner/operators. Those successful in the past are an indicator of long-term safety performance and of a good professional driver.
    • Review a current driver abstract to confirm history as a condition of employment.
  • Use an experienced driver to conduct a driving evaluation of all possible new hires. Use a thorough test that includes two- and four-lane highways, city driving, and yard backing and parking. Things to look for include: shifting, turning, mirror usage, speed and general awareness. Develop a written and a road exam, or a check-off form, to test an applicant's skills and knowledge.
  • Look for positive attitudes in safety representatives, accountants, dispatchers, mechanics, dock workers and so on. Use much the same approach as in the hiring of drivers.
  • Be honest with applicants. Fully explain what is expected of employees. Do not promise benefits and compensations that you will not be able to deliver.


Orientation is part of employee training. The purpose of an orientation program is to familiarize new employees with their jobs and the company, including all policies and procedures.

Use an experienced driver to assist with the orientation of new ones. Ensure that your experienced driver is suitably trained to do the orientation. Consider developing a list of "Must Always Do” and "Must Never Do” as part of your orientation program, to heighten consistency in material being covered in each case.

Consider having new drivers ride with those who are experienced for a time period. Use experienced drivers who are committed to the company's goals and objectives, and who have a proven safety record.

If your company has numerous vehicle configurations, have the driver start with simpler equipment and advance to more specialized equipment as experience is gained.

Experienced employees from other areas of your company can be used to assist with the orientation in their areas.

Training Items for a Safety Program

When providing training specifically, or at staff safety meetings, it is good practice to keep a record of the training offered, who took it and what results were obtained, along with a recall system to find the information at a later date. Choose the training programs and the instructors carefully to ensure that the training is effective and specific to your equipment.

Some common topics to be covered in training are listed below. It is important to be consistent and provide the same training to all staff.

  • Safety equipment
  • Load security
  • Vehicle operation and safe driving
  • Hours of service
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • National Safety Code
  • Company safety program
  • Transportation legislation
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Highway Traffic Act and other relevant legislation

Driver Files

Operators to which Regulation 555/06 (Hours of Service) apply are required to monitor their drivers performance to ensure that they meet these regulated requirements. Operators are also required to document corrective action taken to address incidents of non-compliance.

Below are the required and recommended items associated with a Ministry of Transportation facility audit to be kept in an operator’s drivers’ files for each person who is authorized to drive. Some of the items listed are scored as part of a facility audit:

Required Documents

  • A CVOR Driver’s Abstract obtained within the preceding 12 months of the audit
  • A record of all convictions and/or administrative penalties for provincial and federal legislation that have taken place in the last 24 months
  • Record of all collisions involving any commercial motor vehicles and a record of any action taken by the carrier to demonstrate that they have responded to the incident
  • Records that confirm the completion of dangerous goods training, if applicable

The operator uses this information, as well as training and testing, to decide whether or not the driver is fit to drive. All drivers, full time or part time, and any employees who may drive, should be included. Drivers hired from a pool must also be included. The operator should ensure that similar records are kept by the agency providing the drivers.

In addition, an operator should consider including the following documents as part of its driver files:

  • Completed application form
  • Record of three-year employment history
  • Record of all collisions involving any motor vehicle
  • Record of all training completed
  • Copy of current medical certificate (indirect information may be acceptable, such as a copy of the driver’s abstract or drivers licence)

As a best practice, the operator should consider incorporating the following suggestions as part of their driver screening:

  • Set up an annual review for all drivers
  • Provide recognition for good performance, as well as opportunities for improvement
  • Set up a recall system for notification of when records and training need to be updated
  • Obtain and review driver abstracts more than what is required (i.e. monthly, quarterly, etc.)
  • Obtain and review the carrier profile every one to six months

The operator should use this information, as well as training and testing, to decide whether or not the driver is fit to drive. All drivers, full time or part time, and any employees who may drive, should be included. Drivers hired from a pool must also be included. The operator should ensure that similar records are kept by the agency providing the drivers.

Driver Qualification File

The Ministry of Transportation recommends that an operator set up an individual qualification file for each driver. A checklist of required and recommended documentation can be attached to the cover of each file, to assist the operator in maintaining up-to-date information. The operator should set up and keep files on each person authorized to drive their vehicles. This is to ensure that a driver is qualified and continues to be qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. The file should contain at least the following:

  • Application for employment and employment history
  • Collision and violation disclosures
  • Driver record (abstract)
  • Annual review of driver fitness
  • Corrective disciplinary action
  • Certificates of dangerous goods training
  • Record of training by driver
  • Record of medical requirements/expiry, if applicable
  1. Application for Employment and Employment History

    The driver’s completed application for employment, plus a complete employment history for at least three years immediately before the time the driver started working for the operator, are suggested.

  2. Single Driver Licence Disclosure

    A driver is not allowed to hold more than one valid driver’s licence issued by any jurisdiction at any one time. To be hired by the operator, the driver should disclose the name of each province/ territory in Canada or US state/district/ territory where he or she is licensed; the class of licence held; whether or not that licence has been suspended; and the name in which each driver's licence has been issued. While employed with the operator, the driver must also disclose, without delay, any suspensions, cancellation, prohibition or change in classification of the licence.

    The operator should ensure that drivers only operate vehicles allowed by their licence class, conditions and endorsements.

  3. Disclosure of Collisions – Scored in a Facility Audit

    A driver hired by an operator to drive a commercial vehicle shall immediately indicate to the operator, in writing, all details of collisions – and that, as a result of the collision:
    1. No one was injured
    2. No one died
    3. The apparent cost to repair property damage was less than $2,000
    All other collisions must be reported to a peace officer.

    When a driver tells the operator about a collision, the operator should include this information in the driver’s qualification file.
    It is recommended that all collisions in which the driver has been involved should be reported to the operator. These include collisions that occur in private vehicles, as well as the operator's vehicles.
    Operators should keep records of all collisions, conduct evaluations and take corrective action.

  4. Disclosure of Violations – Scored in a Facility Audit

    Any driver of commercial vehicles should report any and all convictions resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle to the operator. This should be done in writing at the time of the conviction.

    When a driver reports a conviction, the operator should keep the report for the current year and retain reports for four years, if applicable. Operators should review each violation, and document all corrective action.

  5. Driver Abstract – Scored in a Facility Audit

    Drivers should be required to provide the operator with a current driver abstract, or sign a release form allowing the operator to obtain the abstract.

    The operator should obtain a driving abstract upon hiring a new driver, and at least every year after that. The operator should set up an internal process to make sure that abstracts are obtained.

  6. Annual Review of Driver Fitness

    Before hiring a driver and for every year after that, the operator should review the driving abstract and decide whether or not the driver is fit to drive according to company policy. The operator should record the review in the driver qualification file.

    A copy of the driver’s current medical certificate must also be filed. Alternatively, an operator could satisfy this requirement if the driver’s file contained a copy of the employee’s valid driver’s licence and/or a current copy of the driver’s abstract.

    The review can range in scope from a formal employee-appraisal interview to a dated and signed statement of the driver abstract. The review should include the date and a written confirmation by the operator that the driver is fit to continue driving. This document should be signed by the operator representative who conducted the driver evaluation and by the person who approved the driver’s fitness.

  7. Progressive Discipline

    The operator should have a program of progressive discipline for company personnel who violate hours of service and other regulations. The program must be consistent with federal and provincial legislation.

    The policy and the discipline procedure should be outlined, listing the steps up to, and including, termination. For example, this could be a four-step process involving a verbal warning, a written warning, a suspension and termination.

    The operator should record each event and be sure that:
    • The employees know each step of the policy.
    • As each step of the policy is enforced, the employee is notified in writing of the next step.
    • If the violation happens again, the employee is notified.
    • The policy is enforced in a consistent manner.
  8. Certificate of Dangerous Goods Training – Scored in a Facility Audit

    Every driver who transports dangerous goods must possess a valid certificate of training that must be issued by their current employer. In Canada, the certificate of training is valid for a maximum of three years.

    Every employer who issues a certificate of training shall keep a copy of it in the driver’s file for a period of at least two years longer than the expiry date of that certificate.

Recommended Additional Documentation

In addition to the required documents outlined previously, the Ministry of Transportation suggests that the operator keep the following information in the driver qualification files:

  • Road test
  • Examinations or other supporting documentation used to train and evaluate staff
  • Alcohol and drug testing records (drug testing is not a requirement for operators in Ontario).

Incident-Reporting Processes and Procedures

Consider setting up a committee to investigate all collisions, near misses and incidents in which employees are injured and/or equipment or goods are damaged. This committee may include management and staff.

All collisions, near misses and incidents should be reported and investigated, no matter how small. A near miss can easily result in an injury or a fatality, and should be thoroughly investigated.

In the event of a collision, the operator should have a policy in place for employees to follow, which may include:

  • Procedures a driver must follow when involved in a collision (many companies provide an information kit in all vehicles, including a camera)
  • Procedures for forwarding collision information as soon as possible to the collision/incident investigation committee for investigation
  • Reporting summary form
  • Emergency contacts.

Incident Response Procedures

The committee may provide recommendations based on established written guidelines regarding preventable and non-preventable collisions. The committee may be able to detect patterns for the collisions/incidents, and make recommendations on how to avoid further mishaps.

Response procedures should also include discussing the collision/incident at the next regularly scheduled safety meeting.

Collision Evaluation

Company collision statistics should be maintained to better understand the causes and address collision prevention. Consider the following factors:

  • Day of the week
  • Time of the day
  • Hours driven over a period of time
  • Driver age
  • Driver experience
  • Preventable or non-preventable
  • Location
  • Environmental factors such as weather, road conditions, etc.

Substance Abuse Policy

Substance abuse refers to "continuous or excessive” use of legal substances such as alcohol and prescription drugs, as well as the use of illegal substances.  Consider putting a "zero tolerance” clause in your policy for any substance that impairs an employee’s ability to carry out their job responsibilities.

Discipline Process

Using driver input, develop and follow a progressive disciplinary plan.  Depending upon the number, severity and preventability of collisions/incidents over a period of time, the disciplinary plan may include a system of warnings, suspension, additional training and termination.

Before any disciplinary action is taken, drivers should have prior knowledge of the disciplinary plan obtained through staff orientation, training or at regularly scheduled safety meetings.  All actions taken, including verbal warnings, should be documented and included in the employee file.

Compliance with Legislation

Successful companies complete ongoing checks to ensure that legislation and policies and procedures are being followed.  Random checks can be completed prior to monthly/quarterly staff safety meetings.  This will give the company the opportunity to rectify problems on a timely basis, reduce collisions and injuries, and minimize expenses.

Regularly select a sample of files for monitoring.  Check driver records to ensure accuracy.  Check logbooks for violations and accuracy.  Be sure that drivers are following policies and procedures such as daily inspections and load security.  Check vehicle files to ensure that maintenance is up to date and effective.

Conduct annual reviews of driver and vehicle performance.  Discuss your findings with the employees.

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