Annual Safety Stickers: The mythical 13th month

Written by: Chris Booth

The common understanding of the word “annual” generally means that an event or action takes place once every year, or every 365 days. In the transportation industry, the term is more often than not paired with “Annual Safety Inspection.”

One of the more common Ministry of Transportation charges before the Ontario courts is “Operate Vehicle – Fail To Display Device”. The ‘device’ in this instance is an annual inspection certificate or safety sticker. The charging section for this offence can be found under the Highway Traffic Act at section 85(1):

“No person shall operate or permit to be operated on a highway a vehicle of a type or class prescribed by the regulations made under clause 87 (a) unless the vehicle displays, affixed in the place and manner prescribed in the regulations, a device issued by the Ministry as evidence that the inspection requirements and performance standards prescribed by the regulations have been complied with. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 85 (1).”

Many enforcement officers will state it’s probably one of the easiest charges to prove in that either you have a valid sticker visible, or you don’t. This charge normally arises as result of the sticker falling off, or if the annual has expired.

Most operators ask that drivers ensure that the annual sticker is physically on the vehicle, and that the sticker has not expired by including it as an item that should be looked at during the pre-trip inspection.

In terms of the expiration of the annual sticker, there are instances that the operator simply does not have an adequate method of monitoring when the annual inspections are due. In cases such as these it is not uncommon for a charge to be laid as a result of the vehicle having an annual sticker that had expired several months prior to the offence date. There is very little that can be offered in terms of a defence in this type of scenario.

The most troubling to those of us defending operators are those charges that arise when the operators simply did not understand their requirements under the regulation in terms of when an annual safety inspection expires.

Section 8(5) of Regulation 611 sets out the length of time an annual inspection is valid:

(5) If the vehicle type indicated on an annual inspection sticker is a commercial vehicle, the sticker is valid until the end of the twelfth month after the month of inspection indicated on the sticker. O. Reg. 762/91, s. 1.

Given the wording of this section, it is possible to understand how an operator can conclude that an annual inspection really doesn’t expire until 13 months after the date of the inspection. It is a wide spread misconception throughout the industry than an “Annual safety inspection” inspection is valid for 13 months. i.e. An inspection performed on January 13, 2006 is valid until the end of February 2007.

In reality, an annual inspection will expire at the end of the same month the following year. In our previous January 12, 2006 example the inspection would expire at the end of January the following year or January 31, 2007.

Failing to comply with this regulation can have immediate and long term ramifications to an operator in terms of charges being laid.

The most obvious consequence is receiving a citation at the roadside or at a Truck Inspection Station when a driver is pulled over and inspected. Failing to display a valid annual inspection sticker will likely result in a $200 ticket and the application of 3 CVOR points to the operators CVOR.

Another less obvious consequence of having a vehicle with an expired annual safety sticker is charges that can be laid as a result of a Ministry conducted Facility Audit. If during the audit process the auditor reviews the maintenance file of a vehicle with an expired safety inspection charges can be laid. If the auditor can place this vehicle on the road during the expired period of time, (through the use of driver logs and inspection reports) a charge may be issued retroactively. If so inclined, the auditor could lay charges for each day that the vehicle was on the highway with an expired annual safety inspection. The implications for an operator with several vehicles with expired safety inspections and an “unpleasant auditor” can be severe.

The best solution is to be proactive and ensure the offence does not occur in the first place. Remind your drivers to inspect the annual sticker every day as part of their pre-trip. Establish a monitoring system that requires your vehicles to undergo an Annual Safety Inspection every 11 months. By giving yourself the extra month you can accommodate for those vehicles that are out of province or parked at a customer’s yard.

In summary, your Annuals really aren’t Annuals any way you look at it. From now on, think of an “Annual safety inspection” as a “safety inspection that happens every 11 months” and you’ll save yourself $200.00, 3 CVOR points and time wasted at the roadside.