Speed limiters is going to go down as the issue that just won’t go away, despite the fact it has been in the books in Ontario and Quebec for a few years now. The latest development is a series of court challenges, which range from the valid to the downright silly.
Under the “nice try” category, there is the case of owner-operator Lee Ingratta who argued in court that enforcement officials should have to sign a waiver accepting responsibility for any damage caused by the EZ-Tap reading device they plug into his vehicle’s ECM. The case got thrown out.
There is the bizarre case of Don’s Triple F Transport, where a company truck was found to be in violation of the speed limiter law, even though the speed limiter was activated but set at 121 km/h, well above the legal requirement of 105. However, the charge on the ticket read: “Permit operation of commercial motor vehicle not equipped with working speed limiting system.” The charge got dismissed because the truck did have a working speed limiter, even though it was set at an illegal limit. Saved by a technicality.
And there’s the case of one carrier who took six trucks to a mechanic and asked for the speed limiters to be properly set. But the mechanic set them at 107 kmh, instead of 105, resulting in a ticket. The carrier won that case, as he should have.
Of course, of all the cases, the Gene Michaud case is cited by opponents of the law as the most important. With financial backing from the US-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Michaud won a case before an Ontario Justice of the Peace, which found the law to be unconstitutional under Sec. 7 of the Charter of Rights. David Crocker, the lawyer who represented Michaud, argued that limiting truck speed to 105 km/h jeopardizes driver safety, rather than enhance it. It’s the same argument OOIDA and their Canadian counterpart, the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada (OBAC) have been pressing since we first started talking about speed limiters back in 2005.
Justice of the Peace Brett Kelly bought into Crocker’s argument, stating that “inability to accelerate, or not accelerate fully places a driver in a less than safe situation because we have taken some of the tools required to drive properly away from the driver. Mr. Michaud needs to be able to take certain precautions in the execution of his job that will take him out of harm’s way and keep him and those around him safe.”
The decision is being appealed, and so far has not resulted (nor is it expected to) in any change to the law.
But let’s consider (yet again) the argument that limiting truck speeds is a safety risk. If it is the safety risk that OOIDA and OBAC claim it to be, after more than two years of having this law in place, we should be seeing a great increase in accidents, shouldn’t we? Yet, there is no proof in the accident numbers. In fact, during the first year the law went into effect, large truck fatalities in Ontario actually dropped by 24%.
Okay, maybe the province got lucky. Let’s take a longer term view. Australia has had speed limiter legislation since 1990. Its trucks are limited to 100 km/h. Surely they should be seeing the carnage on their highways we’ve been led to believe is sure to happen?
Here is what the Australian Transport Safety Board has to say: “There is no good evidence that a 10 kmh differential between light vehicle and truck speed creates a safety problem. If there is any such problem at all, it is small compared to the safety benefits of running trucks at 100 kmh.”
So let’s call a spade a spade. Safety is not an issue with speed limiters no matter how much OOIDA and OBAC want to pretend that it is.
All that the spate of recent legal challenges proves is this: A large majority of owner/operators and drivers remain vehemently opposed to the law; their associations are willing to continue fanning the flames of protest even though their concerns have not been borne out by the evidence; and there are plenty of lawyers willing to spend their money as they bring their fight to court.
With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics. All posts by Lou Smyrlis