Drivesmart column: Is your car falling apart? Roadside mechanical inspections

Inspections were frequently triggered by seeing something amiss

By Tim Schewe

Many people think traffic policing consists mostly of handing out speeding tickets. This is not the case as there are many other job functions that officers are responsible for. One that I often found to be an interesting challenge was conducting roadside mechanical inspections.

Inspections were frequently triggered by seeing something amiss after stopping a driver for a traffic rule violation, but occasionally police will set up a check stop dedicated to mechanical inspection. Triage will be conducted by a point person on the highway and suspect vehicles will be directed to the roadside for more thorough examinations.

In either case, the authority to conduct these inspections comes from the Motor Vehicle Act:

“219 (2) A peace officer

“(a) may require a person who carries on the business of renting vehicles or who is the owner or person in charge of a vehicle

“(i) to allow the peace officer to inspect a vehicle offered by the person for rental or owned by or in charge of the person, or

“(ii) to move a vehicle described in subparagraph (i) to a place designated by the peace officer and to allow the vehicle to be inspected there by the peace officer, or, at the expense of the person required, to present the vehicle for inspection by a person authorized under section 217, and…”

A systematic check of the vehicle is done and defects, if any, are identified.

The enforcement action taken depends on the severity of the defect. I often chose to be guided by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Out of Service Criteria set for North American commercial vehicles. If it was fair to take a commercial truck off the road, it was fair to apply the same standard to light vehicles as well.

The most severe defects are dealt with by issuing a #1 Notice & Order, seizing vehicle licence plates and registration and calling a tow truck. Examples of common problems that triggered this action include brake system failure, excessive steering linkage wear, frame corrosion or unsafe vehicle modifications.

A #2 Notice & Order was used when significant defects or a general pattern of neglect was uncovered. While concerning, the defects were not significant enough to justify the vehicle’s immediate removal from the highway. The order gives the vehicles’ owner 30 days to correct problems.

Both of these inspection orders require that the vehicle be taken to a Designated Inspection Facility, undergo a complete inspection and be repaired to the point that a pass could be issued.

Designated Inspection Facilities use the Vehicle Inspection Manual as the standard for repair. While exempt from publication, you may be able to read this manual for free at your local public library.

For minor items, a #3 Notice & Order is issued. The driver or vehicle owner is asked to make the listed repair and present the vehicle to show that the repair has been made.

Ignoring these orders could result in significant consequences that include heavy fines and tow trucks.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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