Transportation of Dangerous Goods – Oversight Program Description and Delivery - Fiscal Year 2021-22

Table of contents

  1. 1. Overview of the Program, Operating Context and Environment
  2. 2. Considerations and Drivers for Oversight Activities Priorities
  3. 3. Oversight Delivery in 2021-22
  4. 4. Organizational Contact information
  5. Annex A: Definitions

1. Overview of the program, operating context and environment

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Program’s goal is to improve the safety of transporting dangerous goods in Canada. This is required by Canadian law. The program:

  • develops safety regulations and standards
  • oversees the transportation of dangerous goods
  • provides expert advice, like through the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (CANUTEC)
  • identifies threats to public safety
  • enforces the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and its regulations
  • gives advice to emergency responders
  • reduces the impact of incidents that involve dangerous goods
  • does strategic risk assessments and scientific research

The National Oversight Plan describes all of the program’s oversight activities. These include:

  • regulatory authorizations
  • inspections
  • quality control activities
  • enforcement actions and investigations
  • education, outreach and awareness activities

Operating context

As of March 2021, the program has 145 positions that directly oversee the transportation of dangerous goods. This includes 112 inspector positions.

We have a schedule based on risk to inspect dangerous goods sites and means of containment facilities. As a result, every known site and facility is inspected within a set timeframe, with the riskiest ones given top priority.

We’re always improving our integrated risk management framework. This includes updating our risk register to stay ahead of potential issues and make sure our inspection program can target the sites and facilities with the greatest risk to public safety.

Industry overview

Number of dangerous goods sites and means of containment facilities

We know of 18,101 commercial sites in Canada that handle, offer for transport, transport, or import dangerous goods. There are 1,731 registered means of containment facilities in Canada and abroad. There are also many dangerous goods sites that we still don’t know about.

The totals above don’t include the dangerous goods sites or means of containment facilities inspected by the Government of Alberta on behalf of the federal government. In Alberta, provincial inspectors check dangerous goods sites that transport goods on the road or provincially-regulated railway. They also inspect highway tank facilities.

Risk levels

The program classifies all known dangerous goods sites and means of containment facilities based on how likely, and how severe, a release of dangerous goods would be from the facility.

For 2021 to 2022, the percentage of dangerous goods sites allocated to each risk level were:

  • very high: 1%
  • high: 7%
  • medium: 28%
  • low: 52%
  • unknown: 12% (the program doesn’t have enough information on 2,108 sites to properly categorize them)

For 2021 to 2022, the percentage of means of containment facilities allocated to each risk level were:

  • very high: 1%
  • high: 11%
  • medium: 36%
  • low: 51%
  • new or unranked: 1%

Compliance rates

The overall non-compliance rate for 2019-2020 was 48%. This represents a 5% drop from 2018-2019, and a 14% drop from 2015-2016.

Safety trends

The number of releases (spills) of dangerous goods has been decreasing since 2012.

The overall number of injuries and deaths has been increasing since 2016. This increase is due to new requirements to report injuries. This change was introduced in December 2016.

Internal operating environment

New approach for inspection targets and counting

To be more transparent about the number of actual inspections done in a fiscal year, Transportation of Dangerous Goods Program is using a new way to count completed inspections.

Beginning in 2021-2022, the program will only count oversight activities as inspections if an inspection report is completed. In the past, the program also counted attempted inspections or visits to sites or facilities that were “closed” or no longer handling or transporting dangerous goods.

Due to this change, the program will be reducing the number of inspections that it expects to complete each year. At the same time, the program will also identify new planned inspections for any sites that are found to be closed.

Changes to policy on follow up inspections

An on-site follow-up inspection is necessary when the first inspection identifies an increased risk to public safety.

In March 2020, Transportation of Dangerous Goods Program updated its approach for follow-up inspections. Moving forward, any sites that require a follow-up inspection will automatically be inspected the following year. Means of containment facilities will also be inspected using this new approach.

2. Considerations and drivers for oversight activities priorities

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Program’s oversight priorities for 2021-2022 include:

  • improving the database of dangerous goods sites and means of containment facilities
  • replacing our inspection application
  • developing a national compliance rate by monitoring compliance rates at the federal, provincial and territorial level
  • documenting follow-up activities for all non-compliances found

These priorities are reinforced by government and ministerial directions, as well as recommendations from auditors.

The following section contains program-specific considerations that guide oversight planning for 2021-22.


The pandemic could have a major impact on the program’s ability to carry out the national oversight plan. These impacts could include:

  • fewer available resources (due to inspectors self-isolating)
  • temporary closure of dangerous goods sites and means of containment facilities in response to public health advice
  • lack of domestic flights and travel options (Transport Canada has also limited non-essential travel within Canada)
  • lack of international flights

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Program is managing some of these impacts by doing remote inspections (either by phone or video) for lower risk sites, or for higher risk sites that have been deemed unsafe for an inspector to visit.

For 2020-2021, 90% of inspections were done remotely. Most in-person inspections were done in the Atlantic and Pacific Regions.

Unplanned activities

Any notable increase in unplanned activities or incidents will make it harder for the program to complete its planned activities.

If some economic activities continue to be lower in 2021-2022 due to the pandemic, the program may not complete its expected number of unplanned activities.

Keeping up with more means of containment facility inspections

Due to an increase in the number of non-compliances at means of containment facilities in recent years, the program increased the number of inspections at means of containment facilities in 2020-2021. This was done by increasing the proportion of inspections of this from 6% to 10%.

The program will maintain this level for 2021-2022.

3. Oversight delivery in 2021-22

The delivery of oversight activities, such as planned risk-based inspections and reactive inspections, will be reported through the Canadian Center on Transportation Data (CCDT).

4. Organizational contact information

Transport Canada welcomes your comments on this report.


Annex A: Definitions

Required Field


Oversight How Transport Canada promotes, monitors or enforces compliance with our safety and security requirements.
Regulatory authorizations Given when a regulated party (for example, a railway company or vehicle manufacturer) applies for permission to do a regulated activity, or be exempt from it. We may give permission in various forms, including a permit, licence or certification. Transport Canada does not control the number of regulatory authorizations per planning cycle.

A documented, formal examination of industry compliance with Canadian transportation safety and security rules, regulations and requirements. Authorized Transport Canada officials record the results of each inspection. For the purposes of this document, audits are a type of inspection.

*Includes pre-site, onsite, and post-site inspection and oversight activities. Is complete when the inspector submits an approved inspection or oversight activities report. Does not include follow-up action, quality control checks or outreach activities.

Planned, risk-based inspections

All inspections Transport Canada initially commits to doing in a given planning cycle. The SO3 Management Board may authorize updates as needed.

*Include inspections that are announced (and expected), and those that are unannounced. Does not include:

  • estimated numbers of demand-driven activities, such as regulatory authorizations
  • “reactive” or “opportunity” inspections that happen because of a change in oversight
Follow-up activities

Arise from findings of an initial inspection. May include an on-site inspection, requests for more information, or enhanced monitoring.

*Do not include enforcement.

Other activities Oversight activities that Transport Canada did not initially commit to in a planning cycle, and are not a follow-up to an inspection or audit.

Measures we use to enforce requirements and compel compliance. For example:

  • letters of non-compliance
  • directions or orders
  • ticketing
  • notices of violation
  • administrative monetary penalties
  • prosecutions
  • suspensions or cancellations of certificates or authorizations
Education, outreach and awareness How we educate the public, and encourage people and companies to comply with the law (for example: industry conferences, air shows, training, web portal)
Quality control

How we ensure inspectors follow policies and procedures, and complete required documentation. Applies to an entire oversight activity, from inspection, to follow-up, to resolving non-compliance.Supervisors and managers are responsible for quality control.

Each program must have:

  • a documented, nationally consistent way of doing quality control
  • a procedure or set of procedures to ensure inspections follow approved standard operating procedures