Motor Vehicle Safety – Oversight Program Description and Delivery (OPDD) - Fiscal Year 2018 to 2019

Table of Contents


This document is a plain language version, in a standardized format, of the more technical information contained in the National Operations Plan for 2018 to 2019. This is part of the Oversight Transparency approach implemented by Transport Canada in early 2019.

Executive summary


The Motor Vehicle Regulatory Enforcement Program oversees newly manufactured and imported vehicles, child car seats and tires by:

  • testing and auditing to verify they meet minimum safety standards
  • assessing how people and companies comply with related safety requirements
  • investigating public complaints of alleged safety defects, and overseeing recalls

The program aims to reduce risks to Canadians by ensuring new vehicles and equipment meet Canada's safety standards. It also encourages companies to act quickly and effectively to address safety risks when they arise.

Total oversight spending (salary and operating costs) for fiscal year 2018 to 2019 was $3,693,314. This includes all the oversight activities and test vehicle and equipment purchases.

Key areas of focus include planning to develop and implement new programs expected from recent amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, such as:

  • an Administrative Monetary Penalty Program
  • new safety defect information requirements
  • an exemption authority to encourage new innovative or safety technology development

Approximately $175,000 in new funding is expected to support the development and implementation of these programs.

External factors affecting program delivery

Major developments may affect program delivery. As an example, the rapid market introduction of new vehicle safety technology is likely to increase the need for governments to obtain knowledge and technical expertise.

Large and complex recalls or defect investigations can place high public expectations and demands on limited oversight resources. An increase in public reports of alleged defects and manufacturers' recall notices is expected to continue (see page 7).

Only 75% of vehicle owners heed recall notices issued by manufacturers. This places additional pressure on the department, in cooperation with jurisdictional partners and manufacturers, to raise awareness about the importance of getting recalls fixed.

Internal factors affecting program delivery

The number of public complaints received about alleged safety defects, the ensuing investigations, and the manufacturer recalls issued annually continues to increase. This places more work on fixed resource levels (see page 7).

Hiring and training qualified people is challenging and time consuming for managers and human resources personnel.

Significant program design changes

A major amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act has introduced several new tools to improve oversight. These tools include:

  • consent agreements
  • conditional exemptions
  • orders
  • information-gathering from manufacturers
  • administrative monetary penalties (e.g., fines) for non-compliance

Policies, regulations, procedures, and associated training is required to implement these changes.

More information is available online at:


The Motor Vehicle Regulatory Enforcement Program assesses whether people and companies comply with the legislation, regulations and standards that apply to vehicles, tires and child car seats they manufacture, distribute or import.

These activities can be reactive or proactive. They consist mainly of the following:

Regulatory authorizations: reactive

In Canada, to sell vehicles, tires and child seats, manufacturers must apply for and obtain a National Safety Mark (NSM) from the Minister of Transport, which they affix to their product. Importers also have to obtain similar authorization. A company is not issued an NSM or authorized to import until it can show that its product meets Canadian safety standards.

Temporary importation applications: reactive

The program reviews, assesses, and processes requests to temporarily import non-compliant vehicles into Canada on a case-by-case basis. The vehicle can only be imported for certain purposes set out in regulations, and for a limited time period.

Compliance audits: proactive

The program periodically audits manufacturers and importers to check whether companies and the vehicle, tires and/or child car seats they produce meet applicable Canadian Safety Standards and requirements.

Compliance testing: proactive

The program tests vehicles, tires and child seats to assess whether they meet applicable safety standards, or identify the need for possible changes to requirements. If non-compliance is identified, it prompts the company to issue a notice of non-compliance, and correct it.

Defect investigations and recalls: reactive

The program analyzes large amounts of reports which allege potential safety defects. These reports are made through various sources (the public, media, law enforcement and emergency responders). When trends or common problems occur, it may be a sign that a defect exists, in which case the department investigates. If a safety defect is identified, it prompts the company to issue a notice of defect, also referred to as a recall notice, and correct it. The department also assesses recall notices to ensure they are carried out as required.

Enforcement action: reactive

If the program finds a non-compliance, we take appropriate enforcement action. The severity of the action takes into account the degree of risk posed by the non-compliance.

Operating context

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act is based on the principle of manufacturer self-certification. Through this process, the manufacturer tests and provides proof to the government that all applicable safety standards are met. This approach is similar to the one used in the United States (U.S.). It minimizes government's pre-market influence and burden on the regulated community.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act applies to 3 types of companies:

  • companies that manufacture regulated vehicles or vehicle equipment in Canada
  • companies that distribute vehicles or equipment obtained from those manufacturers to other people, for resale
  • companies that import regulated vehicles or equipment into Canada, for sale

In addition, the Act applies to people who import vehicles sold in the U.S., and those who want to temporarily import vehicles and equipment for specific purposes.

The Motor Vehicle Regulation Enforcement Branch oversees approximately 2,200 manufacturers (Canadian and foreign).

Vehicles, tires and child car seats must be certified by the manufacturer before they can be sold on the Canadian market. For this reason, manufacturers certify their products during the design and development phase. They must keep records related to the design, testing and field performance of their vehicles or equipment. This allows inspectors to verify compliance with applicable standards, and to find safety defects.

Transport Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Oversight Program evaluates whether or not companies are meeting their certification and record-keeping responsibilities, and if their products meet minimum safety requirements.

Public complaints of alleged safety defects, and recalls issued by manufacturers, continue to increase annually. Transport Canada analysis and investigation of these complaints often prompts manufacturers to issue recall notices.

The following statistics illustrate this trend:

1: Number of recalls by Calendar Year 2000 to 2018

Text version
Calendar Year Total Number of Recalls
2000 315
2001 309
2002 252
2003 350
2004 449
2005 404
2006 378
2007 420
2008 459
2009 368
2010 468
2011 442
2012 444
2013 466
2014 592
2015 625
2016 662
2017 669
2018 750

2: Number of complaints by Calendar Year 2000 to 2018

Text version
Calendar Year Number of Complaints
2000 696
2001 775
2002 812
2003 766
2004 832
2005 768
2006 983
2007 989
2008 1,075
2009 1,214
2010 2,155
2011 1,783
2012 1,714
2013 1,847
2014 2,526
2015 2,696
2016 3,150
2017 3,261
2018 2,581

Risks and planning assumptions

Canada has over 2,200 manufacturers of vehicles, tires and child car seats. They produce many models, trim levels and versions of each product, to which one or more standards may apply. As such, it would be inefficient and extremely expensive to test and audit every product or application.

This is why the oversight branch, consistent with the department's practice, uses a risk-based approach to conduct oversight. In some cases, we also randomly select potential lower risk instances of non-compliance.

For example, we consider the following factors:

  • When selecting vehicle and equipment for compliance tests:
    • number of models produced/sold
    • number of complaints or accidents reported to the department on a particular model or year
    • if the model is new or the design has changed significantly
    • if the product is unique or controversial
    • compliance history for the product
  • When selecting which standards to be used for compliance tests:
    • when was the standard was last tested
    • standards that are unique to a particular class of vehicle
    • standards that have been recently improved or updated
  • When selecting companies for and the frequency of compliance audits:
    • type of vehicle (e.g., bus, car, snowmobile, trailer)
    • compliance history
    • company size, knowledge and experience

The program bases reactive activities on demand or circumstances, rather than risk criteria. For example, the department processes applications for NSMs or temporary importation to recognize conditions contained in legislation or regulations, or departmental service standards.

Other reactive activities must happen in the interest of public safety. These may include:

  • recording, analyzing, and when necessary, investigating reports of alleged safety defects
  • assessing, posting and monitoring manufacturers' recall notices


The following factors may affect whether or not the program conducts motor vehicle safety oversight activities as planned:

  • vehicle and equipment availability (i.e., high demand, or limited or end-of-year production)
  • weather, some tests depend on the presence or absence of certain weather conditions, which can be unpredictable
  • time needed to acquire certain vehicles
  • the cost of vehicles
  • amount of reactive activities
  • changes in staffing levels
  • year-to-year budget changes

Implementation of changes

As mentioned, amendments to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act introduced new oversight tools and authorities, while increasing industry's ability to develop innovative and safe technology. These include:

  • Administrative monetary penalty (AMPS) program: An oversight tool already available for other modes of transportation. Regulations, policies, and procedures required to bring this new authority into force are being developed.
  • New authority to require companies to gather and provide more information to TC: This authority could help TC identify safety defects earlier. Regulations, policies, and procedures required to bring this new authority into force are being developed.
  • Authority for the Minister to issue exemptions: Exemptions can be used to safely introduce new technologies and features to new vehicles in Canada, without compromising overall safety. Policies and procedures were adjusted, and regulatory updates are being developed.

Oversight delivery in 2018 to 2019

As per Transport Canada's Oversight Transparency Integration Plan, Motor Vehicle Safety will report results of all oversight activities, including planned and actual results and variance explanations where needed, through the Canadian Center on Transportation Data (CCTD).

Organizational contact information

Transport Canada welcomes your comments on this report.

Annex A: Definitions




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.