On February 2, 1998, the government of Ontario introduced the Commercial Vehicle Impoundment Program as part of its aggressive campaign to improve commercial vehicle safety in this province. This program was a principle recommendation of Target '97, a joint industry/government task force which has worked together closely to improve truck safety in Ontario. Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce impoundment for seriously unsafe trucks, buses and trailers.
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 failing to meet Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) out-of-service standards. A vehicle found with a critical defect would be in much worse condition than a vehicle placed out-of-service.
The Registrar of Motor Vehicles (Registrar) 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. The owner may claim the vehicle after all costs associated with the towing, removal and impoundment of the vehicle have been paid. The vehicle must then be certified as safe before it can be operated in Ontario. Vehicle repairs can only be conducted at a Motor Vehicle Inspection Station following removal from impound. Commercial vehicles abandoned at impound facilities will be disposed of under the provisions of the Repair and Storage Liens Act.
Any commercial 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 kg may be subject to impound if it is operated with critical defects. This includes buses, trucks, and trailers drawn by these vehicles.
Ambulances, fire vehicles, hearses, casket wagons, mobile cranes, motor homes and tow trucks are not affected by this legislation.
The critical defect criteria set out very clear guidelines for determining when defects are serious enough to be considered critical to the safe operation of a commercial vehicle or trailer. Critical defect criteria have been developed for brakes, wheels and rims, steering, tires and suspension/frame components.
Commercial vehicles would be in a significantly greater state of disrepair when impounded for critical defects than they would be when 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 per cent or more of its wheels have brake defects. However, this defect would be considered critical if more than 50 per cent of its wheels have brake defects.
The critical defect criteria, which were developed by government and industry, are defined in Regulation 512/97 of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). Copies of the regulations are available on the web site in Ontario Statutes and Regulations found at www.e-laws.gov.on.ca.
Inspections for critical defects and impoundment are being done at specified truck inspection stations across the province. These stations have been selected based on their strategic location and their exposure to high volumes of commercial traffic.
The impoundment program will be expanded to incorporate other truck inspection stations and mobile enforcement units over time. It is intended that impoundment will eventually take place across Ontario.
Buses, including school buses and motor coaches, are commercial vehicles and are subject to impoundment. Critical defects on buses will be detected at special blitzes held at selected inspection locations.
After the vehicle is inspected and found to have critical defects, charges are laid against the owner and/or operator (truck or bus company) 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 floated to the impound facility.
The impoundment period is 15 days for the first incident within a 2 year period. A second incident within 2 years will result in a 30 day impoundment period. A third or subsequent incident within 2 years carries a 60 day impoundment period.
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 may be charged and is 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 Registrar and must be towed or floated to a qualified repair facility. The vehicle cannot be driven on any Ontario road until a Safety Standards Certificate has been issued. Only then will plates and permits be reissued for the vehicle.
The fees charged for towing, floating, storage of vehicles and goods, and the transfer of loads are established in contracts between the Ministry and impound facilities.
Although a reasonable fee schedule has been established, fees 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 are located within a reasonable towing distance of the inspection location 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.
Impound facilities are selected based on their ability to provide secure, reliable service at a reasonable cost.
All impounded vehicles must be off-loaded at the inspection site. The load must be transferred to another truck or trailer.
The 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.
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:
During the appeal, the owner may apply to the Superior Court of Justice to have the vehicle released from the impound facility after all impound 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 for the vehicle.
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 impoundment 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.
The impoundment event will be recorded on the operator's CVOR record.
For further information contact:
Ministry of Transportation
Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch
Commercial Vehicle Impoundment Program
301 St. Paul St., 3rd Floor
St. Catharines, Ontario
Telephone: 416-246-7166 or 1-800-387-7736 (in Ontario only)