Summary of the public hearings on speed limiters: Part 1
June 5, 2008
June 5, 2008
Just back from the public hearings on Bill 41 at Queen’s Park. It was a fascinating look at the democratic process in motion and I’m pleased to have been there to witness it. I’m surprised it didn’t attract more attention from the media. The following is a short wrap on the events that unfolded, on a speaker-by-speaker basis. Each speaker was given 10 minutes for their presentation and questions. Ten minutes is hardly enough time to scratch the surface of such a complex issue, but at least everyone who attended or called in was treated the same. Couldn’t make it? Don’t worry, here’s a rundown as I saw it: 9:10 a.m. – Brian Taylor, president of Liberty Linehaul. Not surprisingly, Brian was in favour of the legislation. He had the respect of the committee, having driven some million miles himself. “I feel embarrassed it took fuel prices to motivate this,” he said. He also noted while there’s been driver resistance within his own fleet, owner/operators generally end up thanking him several months later when they see how much less fuel they burn at 105 km/h. Almost immediately, MPP Frank Klees establishes himself as the agitator, questioning Taylor on the need to speed up to avoid collisions in some instances. “I don’t think driving the vehicle faster helps you avoid accidents,” Taylor replied. 9:20 a.m. – Brian Patterson, Ontario Safety League. We all know that the OSL has been behind this initiative since the OTA first announced its policy nearly three years ago. Patterson said Bill 41 is “excellent legislation for this province – it will save lives.” He urged the committee to consider increasing the fine for non-compliance above the currently proposed $250. He added motor coaches should also have to comply with the law, an idea that was warmly received by MPPs on the committee. 9:30 a.m. – Robert Clarke, president, Truck Manufacturers Association. They talked briefly about some of the technical issues and the ability to make the system tamper-resistant. Some time was spent discussing the ability of old trucks to comply, which is a moot point since the law won’t cover trucks built before the mid-90s when speed limiters became standard. 9:40 a.m. – Robert Tremblay, Insurance Bureau of Canada. Naturally, he was all for Bill 41. When asked if it would result in reduced insurance premiums for carriers – he was predictably non-committal, noting the bureau does not get involved in the business practices of its members, the actual insurers. 9:50 a.m. – Dave Osiecki, vice-president safety, security and operations with the American Trucking Associations (and friends). Osiecki commended the Ontario government for showing leadership and explained the differences between ATA’s speed limiter policy and the OTA’s. 1) ATA wants the law to apply to new trucks only while the Ontario law would affect all trucks. 2) ATA wants the speed limiter set by the OEM, not technicians or dealers. And 3) ATA wants its speed limiters hard-coded so they cannot be increased by the truck owner. Osiecki said he hopes one day the US will adopt its own speed limiter law and that it can be harmonized with Ontario’s. 10 a.m. – David Bradley, president, Ontario Trucking Association. I’ve seen Bradley speak countless times, but never have I seen him show so much passion. He must smell the finish line by now. He made a great case for speed limiters and distributed a slick information kit. They’re not messing around. At this point in the proceedings, it seems the momentum is all on the side of the speed limiter proponents. 10:10 a.m. – Doug Switzer, vice-president, Canadian Trucking Alliance and Debbie Virgoe, widow of heroic trucker David Virgoe who died while reckless drivers forced him to make an evasive maneuver last year. Switzer backed the OTA position and turned the table over to Debbie. She once told me that she didn’t believe in the OTA’s position on speed limiters, but she’s entitled to change her mind. She has made highway safety her mission in life since the death of her husband and it would seem natural that she would want the speeds of all vehicles controlled.
Things heat up as OOIDA takes to the microphone. See part 2 of this blog for the details.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies