Document calls into question MTO statements

by MM&D staff

TORONTO, Ontario—The story about the Walmart supercube story continues to grow.

To recap, Walmart introduced supercube trailers and modified tractors. The trailers are longer than traditional trailers, but when combined with the shorter tractors, they measure the same length as the tractor trailers that are on the the province’s roads, even though they are said to carry 40 percent more cargo.

After the introduction, the OTA voiced concerns about the pilot project that will initially allow four trailers and two tractors on the road. Along with concerns about safety and driver training, the OTA strenuously objected to the fact that Walmart was given the permit for the pilot project, instead of the carrier who would be responsible for running the trucks.

In an attempt to clarify the issue, MM&D contacted the MTO and asked for details about who was running the pilot project and what criteria would have to be met before the supercubes would be permanently allowed on the road. According to the MTO, the permits would be issued to the carriers, not Walmart, which would mean the trucking company would be accountable for any problems with road and mechanical safety issues.

But a copy of a document obtained by MM&D seems to contradict the official government position.

The document is the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ontario Registrar of Motor Vehicles and Walmart Canada Corp concerning Special Permits to Operate Extended Semi-Trailers and reads as follows:

“The Registrar of Motor Vehicles, by authority of Section 110.1 of the Highway Traffic Act, agrees to issue Special Permits authorizing Walmart to operate extended semi-trailers on Ontario roads and highways.

“Walmart agrees to abide by all the requirements of the attached Pilot Program Conditions as well as conditions specified in the Special Permits issued to Walmart and make any carriers hauling the extended semi-trailers for Walmart aware about these conditions. If conditions in the Special Permits differ from those in the Pilot Program Conditions, the former conditions will prevail.

“Walmart agrees to immediately cease operations if the Carrier Safety Rating for any of the participants becomes ‘Conditional’ or ‘Unsatisfactory’.

“Walmart understands and agrees that failure, on its own or on the part of its carriers, to comply with requirements of the Program Conditions and/or the Special Permits may result in the Ministry suspending, revoking or refusing to renew one or all of the Special Permits. Walmart and its carriers also understand that Section 110.2 of the Highway Traffic Act sets fines up to $20,000 for operating or permitting operation of vehicles in contravention of any of the permit conditions, other than conditions with respect to weight.

“The Registrar and Ministry of Transportation reserve the right to withdraw or modify any conditions related to the special permits or cancel the permits at any time.

“This MoU will remain in force for as long as Walmart holds Special Permits.”

This seems to imply the responsibility for the pilot project and the permits is in Walmart’s hands, rather than the carriers, but traditionally it has been the carriers and operators—the entities that actually run the trucks—that are responsible for the safe operations of trucks and trailers (no matter who the shipper or contractor is) and that are granted Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) certificates. It is this change in responsibility that is a cause for concern for the OTA members.

As spelled out on the MTO website, a CVOR certificate means “each carrier is responsible for monitoring its CVOR record and the performance information it provides, including violation rates, thresholds, audit scores and resulting Safety Rating. The carrier should identify and address problem areas in order to improve its commercial motor vehicle safety performance.

“The CVOR system is part of the Carrier Safety Rating (CSR) program. The Ministry of Transportation monitors carriers and assigns each a Safety Rating based on several factors: collisions, inspections, and convictions, as well as the results of facility audits.”