Commercial vehicle safety requirements
Learn about the safety standards for commercial vehicles in Ontario and how they are enforced.
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A commercial motor vehicle is either:
- a truck or highway tractor with a gross weight or registered gross weight of more than 4,500 kilograms
- a bus with a seating capacity for ten or more passengers
- tow trucks
- concrete pumps and mobile cranes (not including off-road mobile cranes)
In Ontario, commercial motor vehicles and their drivers must meet strict safety standards and follow all commercial vehicle-related regulations in the Highway Traffic Act. Police and transportation enforcement officers regularly inspect vehicles, and the penalties for unsafe vehicles or drivers are severe.
Commercial vehicles must be inspected regularly to ensure they are safe to drive. There are different types of inspections:
- safety standards certificate, annual, and semi-annual inspections must be completed by a licensed motor vehicle inspection technician at an inspection station that is licensed by the Ministry of Transportation
- preventative maintenance inspections must be part of an operator’s maintenance plan and schedule, and must be done by a qualified technician at prescribed intervals
- daily inspections completed by the driver or other person on behalf of the operator
Safety standards certificate inspections
You will need a safety inspection anytime you:
- register a rebuilt motor vehicle
- transfer a used motor vehicle to a new owner as fit
- register a motor vehicle in Ontario that was previously registered in another province or country
- change the status of a vehicle from unfit to fit
If your vehicle passes the inspection you will be given a safety standards certificate and a vehicle inspection report as proof.
Annual and semi-annual inspections
Vehicles that require an annual safety inspection (valid for 12 months) include:
- most trucks, trailers and converter dollies, alone or in combination, with a total gross weight, registered gross weight or manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of more than 4,500 kg.
- tow trucks regardless of weight
- concrete pumps and mobile cranes (not including off-road mobile cranes)
Total gross weight means the weight transmitted to the highway by the truck and/or trailer - includes the driver, passenger, fuel, equipment, tools, cargo, etc. carried by the truck and/or trailer.
Registered gross weight (RGW) means the maximum allowable weight based on the fees paid for the truck licence plates - indicated in kilograms on the right (plate) portion of a truck's ownership next to "REG. GROSS WT." Trailers and converter dollies do not have a RGW.
Manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) means the maximum weight a truck or trailer is safely capable of weighing as declared by the manufacturer. This is indicated on the vehicle's vehicle identification number (VIN) plate or safety certification label.
Vehicles that require an inspection every 6 months include:
- vehicles with seating capacities of 10 or more passengers (not including the driver), such as buses, large passenger vans and limousines. the driver), including large passenger vans and limousines
- school purposes vehicles used for transporting six or more persons
- accessible vehicles
You do not need an annual or semi-annual safety inspection for:
- buses with manufacturer's gross vehicle weight ratings of 4,500 kg or less and used for personal use
- pick-up trucks and trailers drawn by pick-up trucks that meet all of these conditions:
- the vehicles are used for personal purposes without compensation
- the vehicles are not carrying commercial tools or cargo, or equipment of a type normally used for commercial purposes
- the pick-up truck has a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 6,500 kg or less and is fitted with either the original, unmodified box that was installed by the manufacturer or an unmodified replacement box that duplicates the one originally installed by the manufacturer
What an inspection covers
Ontario has strict requirements for safety inspections that are based on Canada’s National Safety Code (Standard 11, Part B). Inspections include:
- power train
- brake systems
- hydraulic brakes
- air brakes
- instruments and auxiliary equipment
- electrical system
- tires and wheels
- coupling devices
If your vehicle doesn't pass an inspection, you will be required to repair it and have it re-inspected before a safety standards certificate is issued. You don't need to repair the vehicle at the facility you had it inspected at.
You can return the repaired vehicle to the same inspection station for re-inspection within 10 days. An extra charge may apply if the wheels need to be removed to have the brakes re-inspected.
A properly conducted daily inspection, commonly known as a “pre-trip” or “circle-check,” can help you detect problems or defects with your vehicle before you get on the road.
You must complete a daily inspection up to 24 hours before driving:
- trucks, trailers and converter dollies, on their own or in combination, if the tractor or power unit has a total gross weight or registered gross weight of more than 4,500 kg
- tow trucks regardless of weight
- buses designed to transport 10 or more passengers, and any trailer towed by one of these vehicles
- accessible buses modified to be used to transport persons with disabilities, if not being used for personal purposes only, and every trailer towed by one of these vehicles
- school-purposes vehicles and buses operating under contract with a school board or other authority in charge of a school being used for the transportation of 6 or more children or adults with a developmental disability
How to complete a daily inspection:
You may choose an inspection procedure that best suits your vehicle and its location. No matter which order of items you choose, you must inspect each applicable item on the inspection schedule for your type of vehicle. The inspection schedule lists the components and systems that require inspection and shows the conditions that would result in a "major" or "minor" defect.
You must record any defects you discover on the inspection report and notify the operator about them. You must carry and produce an inspection schedule based on your vehicle, as well as a corresponding valid inspection report.
- If you find no defect on the vehicle, as defined in the inspection schedule, then "no defect" is recorded, and the inspection is valid for 24 hours.
- If you find a "minor" defect on the vehicle, as defined in the inspection schedule, the defect must be recorded and reported to the operator as soon as possible. The operator is required to repair any defects that do not meet the performance standards. The inspection is valid for 24 hours.
- If you find a major defect on the vehicle, as defined in the inspection schedule, the vehicle cannot be operated. You must record the defect, report it to the operator immediately, and the vehicle must be repaired prior to being driven.
If you identify a defect after the inspection is completed, you must also record it and report it to the operator. If a major defect is identified, the vehicle must be repaired before it can be driven.
Hours of service
Ontario has limits for driving time and minimum requirements for off duty time. These regulations apply to most drivers who require a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR):
- You must have at least 10 hours off-duty in a day
- You cannot drive more than 13 hours in a day
- You cannot drive after 14 hours on-duty in a day
Mandatory off-duty time
After a period of at least 8 hours off-duty, a driver cannot drive:
- more than 13 hours
- after having been on-duty for 14 hours
- after 16 hours has elapsed
- an operator shall designate a cycle for the driver to follow
- in a period of 7 consecutive days, a driver cannot drive after having been on-duty for 70 hours
- in a period of 14 consecutive days, a driver cannot drive after having been on-duty for 120 hours
As a driver, you must:
- keep records of your daily driving and other work activities in a set format
- provide these records to enforcement officials upon request
As of June 12, 2022 most commercial truck drivers are required to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) to log their hours of service. Bus drivers will be required to use ELDs as of July 1, 2023. Learn more about Ontario’s new requirements for ELDs.
Learn more about Hours of Service in the Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Safety Manual.
Wheel separations are serious offences and can result in severe injury or death. Technicians who service wheels on commercial vehicles receive specialized training.
As an operator or driver, it is your responsibility to inspect your vehicle every day to avoid a wheel separation. Ontario has an absolute liability law for wheel separations, which means you can face penalties if one occurs, regardless of the reason. You can face fines between $2,000 - $50,000 if a vehicle you are operating has a wheel separation.
Truck speed limiters
Most large trucks are required to use electronic speed limiters that cap their speed at 105 km/h. This applies to commercial motor vehicles that were built after December 31, 1994, are equipped with an electronic control module and have a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of 11,794 kg or more.
A limited number of vehicles are exempt from speed limiters, such as ambulances and fire trucks.
Learn more about Ontario’s speed-limiting legislation.
In most cases, there are five basic requirements anytime you are transporting dangerous goods:
- The load must be accompanied by a shipping document, which includes specific information including an emergency phone number.
- The small containers must display the safety marks to ensure the safety of the people handling the products.
- The vehicle may be required to display the safety marks to ensure the safety of first responders at an incident.
- The driver must be a trained person or under the direct supervision of a trained person.
- The dangerous goods must be transported in a "proper" container, which must be closed, secured and maintained so that, under normal conditions of transport, there will be no accidental release of dangerous goods that could endanger public safety.
Improperly secured cargo or equipment can damage vehicles, cause injury or even death. Ontario has strict regulations for securing loads safely that adopted via Canada’s National Safety Codes. It is your responsibility to ensure a load is properly secured and does not fall or become dislodged from your vehicle.
Learn more about cargo securement in the Commercial vehicle operator’s safety manual.
Tow truck safety requirements
Previous exemptions in place for tow truck operators will end on December 31, 2022. As of January 1, 2023, you must:
- perform daily vehicle inspections
- undergo an annual vehicle inspection regardless of the weight
- be responsible for tow truck drivers, including record keeping and ensuring drivers are trained, qualified and adhering to regulations
- keep additional records, including maintenance and staff oversight records as described in the Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Safety Manual
In addition, there are new equipment and operator requirements. As of January 1, 2023 you must:
- carry two warning lights (i.e. flares)
- ensure visibility when stopped on the highway for the purpose of towing, transporting or providing roadside assistance services to a motor vehicle
- ensure all equipment, components and devices used to tow are in good working order and do not exceed weight limits
- ensure the towed vehicle is secured to a dolly, cradle or other similar device
- equip your vehicle with lamps capable of producing intermittent flashes of amber lights to be used when stopped on a highway for the purpose of towing, transporting or providing roadside assistance services to a motor vehicle.
- when outside of the vehicle, drivers (and anyone assisting the driver) must wear a safety vest that meets Class 2 or 3 high visibility requirements per the Canadian Standard Association’s Standard Z96-15 (R2020).
Tow truck operators are also required to follow all of Ontario’s safety requirements as described in the commercial vehicle operator’s safety manual, with the exception of Hours of Service requirements.
Enforcement and penalties
Ministry of Transportation and police officers inspect commercial vehicles to make sure qualified drivers are operating vehicles safely. If your vehicle or trailer is found to be in such an unsafe condition that it endangers other people on the highway, you may be prohibited from operating it until repairs are made. You can also face fines up to $20,000.
Under Ontario’s commercial motor vehicle impoundment program, critically defective commercial vehicles are impounded for a minimum of 15 days. If an officer finds one or more critical defects on a bus, truck or trailer, the officer will remove the plates and inspection stickers from the vehicle and impound it.