Safety Fitness Certificates - What You Need to Know?

In 2019, Alberta’s transportation legislation was changed, largely in response to the tragedy that took place in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. As the public demanded greater transparency and accountability for how motor carriers operated, the Government of Alberta made some significant amendments to outdated processes, which were designed to ensure that drivers and carriers were more prepared to address safety and compliance as well as being competent to operate on Alberta’s roadways.


The biggest of the implemented processes was Mandatory Entry-Level Training or MELT. This was designed to ensure drivers were competent behind the wheel of Class 1 vehicles and has been the one largely spoken about. The second process that was implemented was the abolition of Temporary Safety Fitness Certificates and the requirement that all Safety Fitness Certificates were set to renew on a prescribed frequency. As a Safety Fitness Certificate is in essence, a driver’s license for a carrier, it’s important we discuss what the new process is, how it impacts existing carriers, and how to ensure you remain on top of it.


Prior to 2019, it did not take much for a carrier to come into operation. A trip to an Alberta Registries Office, payment in hand as well as insurance for a commercial vehicle was all it really took to get going.

Carriers would be issued a temporary safety fitness certificate, valid for a period of sixty days, which allowed the carrier time to begin working on their safety and maintenance programs while still being allowed to operate a commercial vehicle on Alberta’s roadways.


Prior to the expiration of the temporary SFC, the carrier was required to declare that they did have a safety and maintenance program in place, and then a permanent (or CONTINUOUS) SFC was issued. However, with the demand for more scrutiny, these temporary safety fitness certificates no longer exist.


NEW CARRIER ENTRY PROGRAM


Instead, the program’s been shifted that requires new carriers to be more proactive with their commitment to safety by prohibiting them to drive until they’ve demonstrated that they’ve been willing to put some skin in the game and do some leg work prior to applying for the SFC. The New Carrier Entry Program is broken down into several steps.


1) First, the new carrier is required to complete the 511Alberta New Carrier Compliance Course This course is broken down into six modules, modeled after the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Compliance in Alberta manual. It is 8 hours in length, and it covers what is required to register a vehicle, insure a vehicle, how to build a safety program, an overview of hours of service regulations, record keeping, and the administrative basics required of any motor carrier in Alberta.


2) Next, the new carrier is to register and insure their vehicle. Knowing what is required for registration and insurance is critical to one’s success as a motor carrier.


3) Apply for your SFC online through the web portal. You will need to pay the fee of 150.00 via Credit Card.


4) You will then be prompted to take the SFC Exam, which is modeled after the New Carrier Compliance Course course. You will complete this test at the Registries office.


Upon successful completion of the exam, you will resubmit your SFC application, and if successful, your new SFC will be available in your online account through TRAVIS web.



At this point, you are good to operate as a motor carrier. However, the process is still not completed. Within 9-12 months of being issued an SFC, you are required to submit your carrier’s safety and maintenance program to a New Carrier Compliance Review. This review is completed by an authorized third-party reviewer or auditor approved by Alberta Transportation.


The scope of this review is to ensure that you are adhering to legislation and that you understand what it is that is expected of you as a motor carrier. The reviewer/auditor will review your safety program, your hours-of-service records, and your maintenance program, and will document whether you are complying with your own policies as well as what’s required in legislation. This is non-negotiable. A failure to do this will result in one’s SFC being revoked. Poor compliance could result in intervention on the part of Alberta Transportation. A positive review will be documented on file, and you will carry on with your business.


RENEW THE SFC


Prior to 2019, all SFCs, unless required by Alberta Transportation to read something different, were marked as CONTINUOUS, meaning they never expired. However, this is not the case anymore.


As of March 1, 2019, all SFCs issued now have fixed expiry dates. Those expiry dates are on a 3-year cycle, much like a company’s Certificate of Recognition (COR) certificate should they carry one. What this means is that prior to the expiry date indicated on the SFC, the carrier must renew their SFC through the online portal and be required to pay the $110.00 renewal fee, payable by Credit Card.

During the renewal, you will be asked similar questions that you were asked when making the original application for the first SFC. You’ll be asked about insurance, registration, your scope of operations, whether you have a safety program in place, and you may be required to submit evidence that these documents are in place.


Upon submission of the application, it takes several hours for a new SFC to be issued. But when it is issued, the old SFC is immediately nullified, and you must ensure that each of your commercial vehicles has the new SFC in place. Also, be sure to note what the expiry date is on the SFC.



GRANDFATHERED CARRIERS


This is all great information for new carriers, but what about the almost 30,000 carriers that existed in Alberta prior to 2019?


Is the process the same for their SFC renewal? The answer is yes.


When the new expiry-date SFCs came into existence, the Government of Alberta enacted legislation that required all SFCs issued prior to March 1, 2019, to automatically expire on February 28, 2022.


This means that the time has now come for grandfathered carriers to begin the SFC renewal process. The renewal process is the same as identified above. Visit the online portal, pay the 110.00 fees, and your new SFC will be issued to you within a couple of hours via your TRAVIS web portal. The old-style SFCs with the typewriter print will be null and void, and a new SFC with a style set akin to that of vehicle permits will be issued instead.


However, there is a caveat in place. If grandfathered carriers are not able to renew prior to February 28, 2022, their SFC will become null and void. And, because you are not able to legally operate as a motor carrier in Alberta without a valid SFC, grandfathered carriers will then be required to go through the New Carrier Entry Program and be treated like a carrier that came into existence AFTER March 1, 2019.


This means a carrier that did not renew in time will have to take the 511alberta.ca course, the SFC exam at the registry office, create and submit a safety program as part of their SFC application, and subject themselves to a New Carrier Compliance Review within 9-12 months. There is no grace period on this as of the time of this writing, nor is there expected to be one. The portal is online now to renew your SFC.


IN CLOSING


Although a piece of paper, a carrier’s Safety Fitness Certificate is one of those documents that alongside a Carrier Profile, make up a vital part of any carrier’s operation. These documents are essential to your operation, and should be treated with care, and always protected from on-road incidents, issues of non-compliance, and any OOS (Out of Service) declarations.


We ask that carriers be diligent in maintaining and renewing their SFCs in a timely manner and that if questions exist on how to procure or renew an SFC, they reach out to Carrier Services in Red Deer, a Transportation Safety Consultant, or anybody in the Pivotal Transportation network today to ensure that you’re getting the right information in a timely manner so that you can make that pivotal impact for your company.


Jeremy W. Woolward, HSA

Fleet Safety Officer – Chariot Express Ltd.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada


 

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