I’ve sure been hearing a lot this summer about the dismissal in an Ontario court of a speed limiter ticket given to driver Gene Michaud because the justice of the peace ruled the province’s speed limiter law for heavy trucks is unconstitutional.
If you drive truck in Ontario or Quebec, and hate the legislation, should you be excited? Is this the ticket to get the legislation knocked off the books?
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which funded the legal challenge, and the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC) certainly are enthused about what they see as “the first nail in the coffin of this useless law.” The MTO thinks otherwise and plans to keep on enforcing the law and Canadian Trucking Alliance CEO David Bradley, whose association pushed for the legislation, says he’s not worried this decision will set a precedent.
I’m not so sure about that. I think it can only lead to more court challenges every time a trucker is caught without a speed limiter in Ontario or Quebec.
What I am sure about is that fighting the speed limiter law is NOT in the best interests of our industry. Yes, I know, many owner/operators and drivers don’t agree. (And I also know you will let me know about it soon enough…lol)
But I don’t have to tell you about the negative impact high diesel costs have on fleets and owner/operators alike. Nor do I have to tell you that trucking has a big X on its back because of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. (The commercial highway freight sector has the fastest growing energy demand of any economic sector in Canada.)
Reducing speed is a proven way to significantly reduce both fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. And it actually leaves more money in your pocket at the end of the day. So why fight such a law?
You may argue that fuel costs are a pass through expense – the shipper pays a fuel surcharge. Well, shippers are getting wiser and starting to question what exactly they are paying for. They may not mind helping carriers survive the volatility of fuel pricing but they sure as heck are not going to pay fuel surcharges to carriers who are not serious about fuel conservation. Why should they?
You may argue, as do OBAC and OOIDA, that speed limiters are not safe. Justice of the Peace Brett Kelly raised that issue in his decision.
Okay, in that case OBAC and OOIDA need to outline the situations that would require a driver to accelerate above 105 kmh in order to be safe and how common such circumstances would be. Based on everything I’ve read from the two associations on this issue over the past few years, their claims on the negative safety impacts are much ado about nothing. What happened to all the traffic mayhem we were guaranteed we would see if this legislation came into effect? Could it be that it didn’t materialize because it was just fear mongering masquerading as valid concern?
Ontario road fatalities reached their lowest levels in the past 68 years, making the province the safest jurisdiction in North America, the year the legislation was brought into effect. Maybe it was just a good year, even though large truck fatalities dropped by 24%.
I will ask you to consider this, however: If speed limiters are so unsafe why is the insurance industry, which ultimately pays for the cost of accidents, not speaking out against speed limiters?
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