Ontario tow operators prepare for CVOR system By John G. Smith

Ontario’s Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) system expands to include tow trucks on January 1, but there will be some breathing room for those who are still waiting on the related paperwork.

Enforcement teams will follow an “education” period until May 31, which in the absence of a CVOR certificate will let towing operators supply copies of a “written test required” letter, a completed CVOR application, payment receipt, or copy of an application submitted online. That will help to ensure provincial highways are still cleared of wrecks during this winter season, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation notes.

“There is no backlog in processing the applications,” says ministry spokesman Bob Nichols, adding that 424 tow operators have now applied for a CVOR. “The five-month education period is intended to provide those tow truck operators who have not completed the application process (e.g. not yet applied or not yet written their CVOR knowledge test) with some additional time to comply.”

The new rules were unveiled in 2014 under Bill 15: Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act.

The updated rules focus on traditional tow trucks as well as commercial vehicles with a flatbed that can tilt to load and is used exclusively to tow or move other motor vehicles. Any motor vehicle “designed, modified, configured or equipped” to tow other vehicles rounds out the list.

The province requires CVOR certificates – and their nine-digit numbers — for trucks with a Gross Vehicle Weight above 4,500 kilograms (about 9,900 pounds), or buses that hold 10 or more passengers, if the vehicles are plated in Ontario, the U.S. or Mexico. Equipment plated in other Canadian jurisdictions don’t require the CVOR, but do need a safety fitness certificate from the province or territory where the vehicle is plated.

Towing operators that occasionally hauled freight such as small machinery were already required to carry a CVOR.

Details about the regulatory changes have been publicized over the last year, using everything from letters to information sessions and teleconferences, and the ministry is also producing a “tip card” that enforcement teams will distribute during the education period.

Ontario’s Provincial Towing Association has hosted 20 of its own information sessions about the changes, so there should be little surprise about the CVOR requirements, says Abrams Towing’s Joey Gagne, who is also association president.

“Any good business is following most of the CVOR regulations already – inspecting your vehicles, and hiring safe drivers, and making sure your vehicles are safe for the road,” he added. “There’s no profit in downtime. There’s no profit in having breakdowns.”

Towing operators will, until further notice, enjoy exemptions from Hours of Service rules, daily inspection requirements, and the need to pull into highway scales for inspections. The next phase of regulations will include specific rules for operators, drivers and vehicles, said Nichols.

Gagne believes such exemptions exist for good reason.

“We deal with the public, and the public is different from hauling goods,” he told Today’s Trucking. Scales are not equipped to host passengers while inspections are being conducted. Besides that, most towing businesses work within a 10-kilometer radius and would seldom be exposed to the highway scales, he said.

When it comes to work hours, meanwhile, there is no hope of scheduled work. “Your car breaks down when it breaks down. You don’t know when that’s going to happen,” Gagne said.

There are other exceptions to the CVOR, including trucks or buses leased to an individual for no more than 30 days to move personal goods, as well as unloaded trucks with dealer plates or in-transit permits. Pickups with a Gross Vehicle Weigh Rating of 6,000 kilograms (13,227 pounds) are also exempted.

But there are limits to what the CVOR will accomplish in the towing industry, Gagne said. “I don’t believe CVOR is going to be a fix-all,” he said, noting how it will not address concerns about businesses that recklessly “chase” accidents.

Under a CVOR, carriers are responsible for driver conduct, the mechanical condition of the vehicle, load security, and filing records on vehicle repairs, kilometers traveled per year, and annual inspection reports, among other documents.

The CVOR monitors safety records over two years, tracking factors such as convictions, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspections, reportable collisions, and ministry sanctions.

Potential sanctions range from disciplinary letters to interviews, audits or sanctions. At severe levels, that can mean limited fleet sizes, seized plates, or the outright cancellation of operating privileges.

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