April 14, 2012 · Updated 9:52 AM

From left, CVSE supervisor Bruce Calbick and North Vancouver RCMP Cpl. Richard De Jong inspect the makeshift novice driver decal that earned this truck a failing grade. / Todd Coyne photo

In a joint sting operation targeting dangerous commercial vehicles on North Vancouver's Highway 1, officers from the North Van RCMP and the province's Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement Branch brought down more than two dozen violators in just a few hours Thursday.

Of the most serious offenders are five commercial trucks and six tow-behind trailers whose drivers are handed immediate cease operations orders and their vehicles are towed away from the highway's westbound exit onto Main Street, where the Mounties and CVSE spotters spend the morning flagging down suspect vehicles.

In all, at least 25 safety violations are handed down for things like unsecured loads, lack of signage for dangerous goods and failed brake inspections.

But perhaps most worrisome of all, two taxicabs from different operators are also determined to be unsafe to operate and are hauled away — one for having a crooked frame that wasn't fixed following an accident, the other for malfunctioning brakes.

"Safety is absolutely paramount to what we do," CVSE supervisor Bruce Calbick tells The Outlook at the scene where the inspections are happening.

One taxi pulled over Thursday morning has two passengers onboard when it's flagged. Inspection officers take the cab driver's license and registration, telling him to continue on to his passengers' destination and then return for inspection immediately.

Calbick estimates that about one in every five commercial vehicles on the road at any given time are in breech of one or more CVSE regulations.

"And if we concentrate on what we're trained to spot, it's about 40 per cent of what we pull over that we will put out of service," Calbick says.

So what exactly are they trained to spot?

"I can't say too much, but our inspectors are trained to find the bad ones and they do," he says.

Without revealing any official secrets, it's apparent that most vehicles pulled in are those bearing obvious red flags for inspectors like a burnt out tail light, expired insurance tags or a poorly secured load.

"Obvious signs of neglect," says Cpl. Richard De Jong, who's helping coordinate things on the Mounties' side of the one-day crackdown on non-compliant commercial vehicles.

When Calbick is asked about some of the stranger citations he's ever had to issue, almost on cue a large commercial one-ton is waved off the exit ramp, its novice driver switching off the ignition.

"Here's a good one," Calbick says, shaking his head.

The driver has failed to display the requisite green N decal on the work truck to indicate he's a new driver. Instead, the truck sports a well-worn piece of grey construction plastic, tied into someone's rather skillful interpretation of an N-shape. Traffic laws aside, it deserves an A for effort. But it will today prove more effort than it's worth, as what it's worth is a $109 fine and a free N decal.

"Any driver has the right to refuse to drive the company vehicle if they feel it's not safe," Calbick says.

However, anyone also has the right to be unemployed and Calbick agrees it's not always easy to report unsafe work vehicles to employers or authorities for fear of reprisal.

"The driver is ultimately responsible," Calbick concludes. "But there are always penalties and provisions for companies too."