This is the continuation of my blog report from the public hearings on speed limiters, held at Queen’s Park June 5.
We pick it up with the folks from OOIDA.
10:20 a.m. – Terry Button, OOIDA. First, let me say OOIDA should be commended for coming up to Canada to present their members’ position. This is a powerful lobby group with 162,000 members. However, both presenters (I’ll get to that in a sec) had trouble making their presentation in the 10 minutes allotted, which caused clarity to suffer a bit and left no time for questions. Written submissions could be equally effective after the hearing. I got the sense that the MPPs on the committee were gaining the most useful information during the Q&A sessions that followed each presentation. Nevertheless, both OOIDA presenters made their position very obvious. Button, who runs trucks from New York State into Ontario, saved his strongest comments for the end: “We believe your good intentions are being taken advantage of,” he told the committee. “If you pass this, we will not sit idly by.” He said he has already discussed the issue with his local representatives and he’s convinced there are NAFTA trade implications. He saved the best for last, but again in my opinion it would have been more effective if there was time for follow-up questions.
10:30 a.m. – Tom Weakley, director of operations, OOIDA Foundation. Foundation? Clever way to get two speakers from the same organization onto the docket! Well, they did travel all the way up from the states – I think they deserved more than 10 minutes. Again, Weakley just had too much ground to cover in just 10 minutes and there was no time for follow-up questions. But he presented some great numbers I hadn’t heard before. Like this: It’ll take an extra five to seven minutes to check the speed limiter during every MTO inspection. That could total 43,000 hours of additional delays each year. Yikes. While the OOIDA reps may have been a bit rushed, they did leave the committee with some useful information sheets.
RECESS TIME! Just when things are getting good. A four-hour recess – not enough time to get back to work and accomplish anything, but enough time to take up my entire day. Oh well, I catch part of a matinee Jays game on TV.
2:30 p.m. – Dr. Barry Prentice, University of Manitoba, transportation guru. Prentice warned against speed limiters for a couple of reasons. For one, he said the safety enhancements will not exist because of the creation of wider speed differentials. He also questioned the environmental savings, since cars would be forced to speed up and slow down more frequently to avoid truck traffic, negating any greenhouse gas emission savings from trucks. He cited some stats that contradicted earlier stats from OTA members. He also cited research which the committee seems eager to take a closer look at. It seemed like Prentice, with his impressive accolades and transportation knowledge, gave the committee some things to think about.
2:40 p.m. – Dorothy Sanderson, professional driver. Kudos to Dorothy, the only trucker who ventured down to Queen’s Park to have her say. She argued vehemently against Bill 41. It was refreshing to see a trucker take to the mic. She even garnered an applause from the NDP members – albeit, it was after slamming Transport Minister Jim Bradley.
2:50 p.m. – Ray Gompf, Canadian Owner/Operators Co-op. The premise of his speech was that engines don’t necessarily emit less when they’re running slower. Lower RPMs mean an engine has to work harder, producing more emissions. He said owner/ops can’t afford to re-spec’ their trucks and said at the very least, existing trucks should be grandfathered.
3:00 p.m. – Jeff Bryan, Jeff Bryan Transport. Bryan held up well on the hot seat during questioning. He raises a good point: If Bill 41’s going to hurt the pocketbooks of fleets and/or owner/operators, why is it that the loudest proponents of the bill, which already govern their trucks, are amongst the most successful and safest fleets? “The policy will improve the image of our industry and it will improve safety on our roads.”
3:10 p.m. – Joanne Ritchie, OBAC. This is where things took a turn for the peculiar. Nowhere to be seen, Joanne called in on her cell phone from the 10 Acre Truck Stop in Belleville. She bemoaned the short notice provided for the hearing and said she’d been up all night preparing her presentation. On her drive in from Ottawa, fatigue caught up with her and she had to pull over to rest. Now, I don’t know if it was a clever ploy aimed at hammering home the point that the notice given for the hearing was inadequate? (The way they rushed this hearing really was a joke – honestly, how many truckers could be expected to attend?) Regardless, her call – and her inability to make the hearing – made an impression. The committee agreed that if she could not make it in, then it stood to reason that most truckers would also have difficulty appearing. They agreed, almost certainly as a result of this call, to extend the deadline for written comments to June 10. They also agreed to accept Ritchie’s presentation at a later time.
And on that odd note, it was a wrap. The MPPs agonized over the fact they had been presented with two vastly different opinions on the subject over the course of the day. They decided to take more time to solicit feedback from stakeholders. For those of you who sent in faxes and e-mails, I can confirm they were distributed to the committee members. You can keep doing so til June 10. See the Headline News item for details. It may make a difference, regardless of where you stand on the issue. The Opposition MPPs in particular seem willing to explore this issue in more detail before proceeding. That’s our democracy in action and it was fun to watch.
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