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Joint Calgary police services operations puts safety first for commercial vehicles this fall

Operators and drivers of unmaintained and dangerous commercial vehicles beware, because the Calgary Police Service is coming for you.

That is the message that CPS, along with their City of Calgary and Alberta Sheriffs partners, are putting forward this fall as they begin to ramp up inspections and enforcement of commercial vehicles.

On Sept. 6, the partner agencies conducted a joint services Checkstop along Stoney Trail between Peigan Trail and 17 Avenue NE, which resulted in multiple fines, and even some vehicles being towed.

“When it comes to the condition of a vehicle, we’ve had one today where the steering box wasn’t secured properly—it was moving. We had brakes out of adjustment, we had one of the brakes that was completely ineffective,” said Colin Foster, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Inspector and CPS Traffic Sergeant.

“And it’s a direct quote from the driver, ‘safety is not our concern. That’s not our problem.'”

He said that attitudes like the one expressed were part of the reason why it was essential for commercial safety inspections to take place this month.

“Those are the guys we want to stop. Those are the guys we want to get off the road. Those are the guys we want to get the defect rectified before it kills somebody. It’s as simple as that,” said Sgt. Foster.

“We understand that everybody’s got a job to do times are hard, we get that 100 per cent. But the problem is that when you have a defect that is so dangerous, that it can lead to a loss of control of the vehicle, we need to look after it and we need to fix it.”

At a previous Checkstop held on Tuesday, Sgt. Foster said that CPS stopped 58 vehicles and of those 67 per cent failed inspection.

“That means they had a defect on the vehicle that was so serious, that they couldn’t leave until we actually had that defect rectified. On top of that, we issued 51 violation tickets yesterday,” he said.

A Calgary Police Service officer inspects a vehicle during a commercial Checkstop enforcement on Stoney Trail on Wednesday, September 6, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Danger to the public is real from bad vehicles

Sgt. Foster said that the high rate of failed inspections comes from CPS officers purposefully targeting vehicles that appear to have defects. He said that unlike in other jurisdictions, which pull one vehicle after another, the goal here is not to punish the companies and drivers that are taking care of their vehicles.

“I understand that mentality because we want to see a fairness across the spectrum. But the problem is if I pull a vehicle I know who’s gonna pass inspection, that’s wasting their driver’s time. It’s wasting my time,” he said.

“I want to get the dangerous vehicles off the road. I make no apologies for doing that. I don’t want to waste the time for the drivers who have been compliant and have a good vehicle, I want to catch the rubbish and get it off the road.”

Among the types of defects seen are less complicated issues like unsecured loads and unsecured skid steer, to more complex issues like broken axles, ineffective brakes, or other issues that can lead to catastrophic vehicle failures and ultimately fatal collisions.

Fines for commercial vehicle infractions start at $324, but can lead to vehicles being impounded.

“Typically, what we try and do is if we can get the defect rectified on the side of the road, we’ll get them to pull to the end of the Checkstop queue, and then have the mechanic come out to affect that repair if it’s like breaks out of adjustment, it’s a flat tire, or something like that,” Foster said.

“If it’s something that can’t be fixed on the side of the road, then it’s a heavy hauler to come and take them out.”

The penalties if a bad vehicle leads to a collision can be even higher he said.

“If I’m dealing with a fatality involving a commercial vehicle, and I find defects that should have been rectified beforehand, then that elevates it from commercial vehicle tickets to possibly to dangerous driving, possibly to criminal negligence causing death.”

A Alberta Sheriff directs trucks during a commercial Checkstop enforcement on Stoney Trail on Wednesday, September 6, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Not worth putting your business at risk, and the lives of drivers in danger

By 10 a.m. on Peigan Trail, some commercial vehicles had begun to avoid pulling onto Stoney Trail to avoid the flashing lights of the Checkstop.

Sgt. Foster said that CPS had been monitoring the CB radio traffic where drivers had been warning other drivers. CPS too, he said, was also aware of a Facebook group that had notified drivers of where the Checkstop was located.

“I can assure you that we’ve been called some really strange names, even ones I haven’t heard of before,” he said.

“But we are hearing ‘yeah, if you take this road, you can get around it.’ Well, guess what? We may be down that road next time or if we’ve got sufficient resources, we may have a vehicle there who’s going to pull you in and drag you over to the Checkstop in any event.”

He said that drivers with bad vehicles would be found eventually.

The message to drivers is when mandatory pre-checks need to be done, do them right and accurately. The time skipped means getting costly penalties.

For companies, said Sgt. Foster, fix your vehicles or have them taken off the road.

“Every minute that truck is not on the road doing hauling or getting goods to wherever they need to go to, that’s costing the company money as well,” he said.

“Do you run the risk of your drivers getting stopped, and us finding these things? Or is it better to see that there’s an issue and fix that issue?”