MTO Hearings and How to Avoid Them

I recently had the opportunity to go to 301 St. Paul St. East in St. Catharines,
Ontario. For those of you who don’t recognize this address, good for you! It means that you have not been to a Ministry of Transportation (MTO) “Show Cause” hearing. In fact, this past month I have been there twice. Both time I was representing trucking companies with terrible CVOR records.

At one of the meetings it was stated that less than one percent of CVOR holders make the visit to St. Catharines. Less than one percent! And here I am twice in less than a month. Does this mean that I am an awful safety consultant because my clients have to go and see the MTO? I hope not. These companies hired me to help them get in shape before they had to appear. And in both cases, improvement was made by the companies.

What is the MTO process and how did these companies get selected? In both cases, it was not a surprise that we had to go and plead our case. So how did it all work? Did they have warning signs before they got the letter to appear? Definitely!

The letter they received basically said that the Ministry has the power to shut their company down and if the company wants to avoid that, then come to the MTO and talk to them. The carrier (or their safety consultant) must then explain why the MTO should not take that action. After all, the Ministry of Transportation has the responsibility to keep Ontario roads safe and it appears (if a company gets this letter) that the company is not doing their part!

In each of the meetings that I attended, there was a panel of three people that we appeared in front of. It is quite intimidating. They ask very direct questions so that they can understand what management is doing about safety and compliance. What is management doing to correct their CVOR and keep the roads of Ontario safe? You had better go into this meeting with a plan of action and the plan should already be implemented. They want to see action on the company’s part because by the time you received the MTO letter, the need to take action should not be a surprise.

Why not a surprise? Well, the CVOR holder likely already had two previous warnings or notices that this request was going to land in the company’s mailbox. The first is a “Warning Letter” from the MTO stating that the company’s safety record has garnered the MTO’s attention. This letter comes when your CVOR goes above 35% of the threshold. If, after getting this warning, the CVOR continues to climb, the company will likely receive a facility audit. This is the second foreshadowing of the sanction letter arriving. The results of the audit, by the way, are a great blueprint for what action the company and safety consultant should take. The audit points out most of the deficiencies in the company’s safety program. It basically says: take action now and improve your CVOR score to avoid having to visit St. Catharines.

Ok, how do you avoid this process? Take action after you get the first warning letter. Don’t let it get to the point that your company becomes part of that one percent that gets these letters. Many owners of smaller trucking companies are good managers; they have good dispatchers and they can keep their customers happy. But they are not knowledgeable in the safety and compliance area. Or, the owner simply doesn’t have the time to take care of safety and compliance issues. So if you want to avoid the ultimate interview, then you had better hire the expertise required. This can be done by getting a knowledgeable person on staff. If you are a small company, you can probably get away with a part-time position and of course, if you are larger, then a full-time person is required. Either way, you need someone to help you.

What I have experienced is that often, the owner will hire a consultant to train a member of their family to do the safety and compliance. In this way the knowledge and responsibility stays within the company. I believe that this is much better then hiring a safety consultant to run your safety department. Remember, you can delegate the task but never the responsibility.

So if you have received a warning letter and worse still, also received the second warning of having to do a facility audit, you had better do something positive and quickly. Take the correct steps to avoid an appearance in front of the committee! It is no fun to have your livelihood threatened.

Chris Harris
Safety Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
905 973 7056
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.