Some visual truck checks last only seconds, N.S. legislative committee hears

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - A significant part of inspections in Nova Scotia that ensure transport trucks are safe comes down to a visual check lasting between six and 10 seconds, a legislative committee heard Wednesday.
Don Evans, the Transportation Department's manager of training and outreach for vehicle compliance, told the committee that trucks are given the quick once-over when they pull off the highways to be weighed.
"That's how long it takes the vehicle to come to a stop," Evans told reporters after the public accounts committee meeting wrapped up.
"If there's something that catches the officer's eye, the truck stays there longer. It's as simple as that."
Officials at the weigh stations watch to see if the driver is attentive, check out the condition of the truck and look to see if the load is secured or if there's a leak.
"The driver could drive in, he could have a flat tire," he said.
They conduct about 30,000 more in-depth checks a year, he said. That's a small percentage of the total number of truckers plying the highways.
Nova Scotia's auditor general earlier this year warned that motorists are at risk on the province's roads because of an inadequate inspection process for large commercial trucks.
"We feel that public safety is being compromised," Jacques Lapointe said after tabling his spring 2009 report in the legislature.
He made 11 recommendations, which are at varying stages of being implemented.
One of his criticisms was that weigh scale houses aren't open long enough and are understaffed.
"Since the auditor general's report the number of hours that the scales are open have gone way up," Evans said, pointing out that two of the five weigh stations have been open 100 hours a week.
Lapointe's audit found they were only open an average of 78 hours a week and were staffed by more than one person just 19 per cent of the time.
The auditor also determined Service Nova Scotia's audit and enforcement program did not adequately monitor higher-risk commercial carriers.
Evans said officers also conduct spot checks at various points on the province's highways.
"You can't stop every car on the road," he said.
Kevin Caines, the Transportation Department's executive director of highway engineering and construction, told the committee that staff have been added.
"We've certainly started to upgrade our policies," he said.

Organizations: N.S. legislative committee, Transportation Department

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, HALIFAX

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