I thought I was done writing about speed limiters for a while, but editorial director Lou Smyrlis’ latest blog and its responses have compelled me to address the issue once again. Based on the phone calls and e-mails I’ve received in recent weeks, it appears hard enforcement of Ontario’s speed limiter law has fanned the flames and sent the law’s critics into an uproar.
It seems everyone is still determined to beat the system. Some drivers are carrying waivers and asking MTO inspectors to take responsibility for any damage that occurs to the ECM during inspection. The result: A fine. Others are sealing off the plug-in slot, warning that whoever breaks the seal is responsible for damage. The result: A fine. I’ve been told some are even – and I hope this isn’t true – jury-rigging the plug-in slot so it delivers an electrical surge that can destroy the inspector’s reader. Not only is this dangerous, but the result: Most definitely a fine. See a pattern?
You can try every trick in the book to deter inspection officers from enforcing this law, but the end result is that you’re still going to get a fine. Can you afford it? Or would it be more reasonable to comply and adapt and move on?
Hey, I’m not telling you how to run your business – but isn’t it time to ask yourself that question? Also, is it really fair to be challenging the inspection officers who in most cases are just out there doing their jobs – just like you? This law has been dumped into their laps and I’m sure many of them would prefer not to have one more thing to worry about. Don’t direct your anger at the inspection officers.
‘No problem there,’ you say, ‘my anger is directed squarely at the Ontario Trucking Association, which dreamt up this harebrained scheme in the first place.’ Listen, I don’t like Bill 41 any more than any of you and I think the time and resources that were spent developing and endorsing this policy over the past five years could’ve been better spent. But having said that, is the OTA really to blame?
Consider this: The sole purpose of the OTA is to represent its members. Those members, for the most part, wanted to mechanically limit truck speeds in the province to 105 km/h. You can question their motives – was it really done with safety and the environment in mind, or for competitive reasons? I have my own opinion on that. But what you can’t question is that the OTA has done a remarkable job at representing its members’ interests and guiding this law through all the legislative hurdles. Who really thought it stood a chance when the OTA first announced its intentions in November, 2005? Not me.
Regardless of what you think about the OTA, it’s a successful, powerful and well-run lobby group that gets things done on behalf of its members. And as far as I know, it’s not an exclusive club. If you run a trucking company – big or small – I doubt very much that the OTA would refuse your membership dues. Would your opinions carry as much weight around the boardroom table as those of the bigger fleets that play a more active role in the association? Maybe not, but at least you would be heard. At least you’d be part of the process. I’m tired of the argument that the OTA represents only mega-fleets and has an agenda to beat down the little guys.
Now if you still want to be angry about Bill 41, then by all means, go right ahead. I don’t blame you. But at least direct your anger where it’s deserved: Queens’ Park. The Liberal government should take 100% of the blame for ushering in this law without first arming itself with all the information, namely the Transport Canada studies that were not long from being released when the law was passed.
It’s worth noting that between 2005 and 2009, Elections Ontario financial records show these same Liberals received over $30,000 in donations from the OTA. I’m not suggesting the Liberals were “bought” – I’m sure $30K is a drop in the bucket for the Ontario Liberals. But was it enough to grease the wheels? It does raise some interesting questions, especially considering the law seemingly went through the entire legislative process pretty much untouched by our entrusted lawmakers.
Frank Klees, a pretty clever Conservative MPP who was opposed to the speed limiter law, read the following during the debate in the Legislature: “I received an e-mail that, quite frankly, concerned me as a member of this Legislature and as a former minister…I’d like you to listen to this, Speaker, because you will be interested, as will any other member of this Legislature, to know the arrogance with which some stakeholders approach this place: ‘As for the amendments, we have none, and in fact I would go further and say that we would be very strongly opposed to any amendment. This is our bill. Every period, every comma, every semicolon was put there by us, and we would be very, very unhappy were it to be amended in any way’.”
If he was referring to the OTA, then good on ’em. As a lobby group, they managed to draft a policy and then guide it through the legislative obstacle course right through to fruition, virtually untouched. That’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment and I have nothing but respect for the OTA for getting it done. Score one for OTA – who wouldn’t want an organization like that in their corner?
But the bottom line is, it never should’ve happened that way, yet the Liberals allowed it to happen. They didn’t do their due diligence. They didn’t arm themselves with all the facts. They didn’t give speed limiter opponents the opportunity to properly prepare and state their cases. I was at the so-called public hearings and they were a farce. OOIDA had 10 minutes to explain its position. Some of the Liberals on the committee tapped away at their Blackberries during the hearings. They were disinterested in the proceedings – their minds were made up. Transport Minister Jim Bradley and his underlings were little more than puppets on a string and if you believe the anti-speed limiter rhetoric, then it would be fair to say that they got thoroughly bamboozled.
So what can you do? Vote. You’ll have to wait til 2011 to do so, but that’s the best course of action. Don’t harass MTO inspection officers. Don’t dig your heels in and vow to fight every ticket unless you can afford to pay hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in fines. And don’t blame the OTA. If you want revenge, then vote in the next provincial election. There’s a perception out there that truckers don’t vote – prove them wrong. Be heard.
But even then, don’t expect Bill 41 to be undone. It’s been speculated lately that the Conservatives, if elected, would overturn Bill 41 or ‘order a review’ (as if that wording itself isn’t a cop-out). If you haven’t guessed, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a card-carrying Conservative. Yet, if elected, I wouldn’t expect the Conservatives to make overturning Bill 41 a priority. First, they’d have to win the election and they’ll be hard-pressed to do so in Ontario. Next, they’d have to risk alienating the public by reversing a law that on the surface, let’s face it, slows big trucks down. You really think that’s going to happen? Not likely. Many of you vow to fight this law to the end and I wish you luck.
However, you may save yourself a lot of aggravation by simply laying down your sword and adapting to the new reality. Professional drivers have proven their resilience over the years – life will go on in a speed limited world. But keep that sword handy, because in 2011 you’ll have your chance to wield it once more, and take aim at the appropriate target.
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