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Done deal?

TORONTO, Ont. - Many Ontario truck drivers had their fears realized July 2 when the province's transportation minister unexpectedly announced the province was proceeding with a controversial plan to m...

TORONTO, Ont. – Many Ontario truck drivers had their fears realized July 2 when the province’s transportation minister unexpectedly announced the province was proceeding with a controversial plan to mechanically limit truck speeds.

Amid little fanfare, minister Donna Cansfield reportedly made an off the cuff remark to a US reporter that Ontario was indeed proceeding with the plan. The comment soon hit the newswires, catching many professional drivers off-guard as they enjoyed their Canada Day long weekend.

In the days to follow, both Cansfield and the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) responded officially to the announcement. Cansfield said “Ontario is a leader in road safety, and this government is always looking for ways to make our highways safer. Ontario is proposing to regulate speed limiters at 105 km/h. Regulating the use of speed limiters for large commercial trucks may help prevent serious collisions.”

The OTA, the driving force behind the legislation, lauded the province’s decision.

“Minister Cansfield deserves a lot of credit,” said OTA president, David Bradley. “She has been supportive of our plan all along and has worked hard to hear everyone’s point of view, including the police and even the few groups who indicated they had concerns with or were opposed to what we were trying to accomplish. She always told us to keep the faith.”

The association hopes other provinces will follow suit, making the mandatory use of speed limiters a national standard. And it just may get its wish.

Just three days following Ontario’s announcement, the Quebec government confirmed it too was proceeding with legislation that would mechanically limit truck speeds to 105 km/h. The legislation also calls for an end to the use of handheld cell phones while driving and the launch of a photo radar pilot project.

Naturally, not everyone was pleased with Ontario’s plan to proceed with the controversial speed limiter policy.

Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC) has been a vocal critic of the plan since day one. She said Ontario Transport Minister Cansfield is “ill-informed” and “just doesn’t get it.”

“There are so many holes,” she said of the OTA’s speed limiter proposal. “The proposal is not backed up with any kind of research or statistical studies.”

Ritchie pointed out Transport Canada and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators have yet to complete a series of traffic modeling studies that would test the perceived environmental and safety benefits of speed limiters. Legislating the use of limiters before those studies are completed is “very irresponsible,” Ritchie blasted.

Trucker camps out at OTA

OBAC has raised a number of concerns about the mandatory use of speed limiters, including how their use will be enforced.

“Minister Cansfield still thinks it’s something you can turn on and off with a button in the cab of your truck,” she said. “It would be very irresponsible if Ontario were to go ahead and implement something like this arbitrarily…there could be very serious implications.”

She added “government should be enforcing the rules they already have in place” and pointed out that the opposite of using speed limiters is not necessarily speeding.

Ritchie pledged that OBAC will continue fighting the legislation and with a provincial election looming, she’s not yet ready to concede defeat.

Drivers reacted strongly to the announcement, many e-mailing their frustration to Truck News, elected officials and other media outlets. Driver Stephen Webster had a different approach – he drove to the OTA’s Toronto headquarters and camped out in his truck overnight, demanding to meet face-to-face with Bradley himself.

Webster once spent five weeks living out of his car at Queen’s Park in protest of US farm subsidies, and he called Truck News from the OTA parking lot insisting he would remain parked there until the OTA agreed to meet with him.

The association received him warmly, bringing him coffee in the morning and inviting him in to speak with Bradley and OTA vice-president Stephen Laskowski.The operator of three trucks went into the meeting with his guard up, but admitted afterwards he now thinks professional drivers can work with the OTA to address important issues such as driver wages and retention by shippers.

“I feel that they made it quite clear the lines of communication are very open,” Webster told Truck News immediately following the meeting. “I told them, in no uncertain terms, that I want to see a direct relation between speed limiters and a minimum hourly pay for drivers.”

He feels that if drivers are going to have the mandatory use of speed limiters forced upon them, they need to be compensated for any decrease in productivity.

“We need to address the issue of drivers getting paid for all hours and address detention time with shippers,” Webster said.

He has launched a group called the Grassroots Truckers and urges drivers to call him with their concerns about speed limiters and other industry issues at 519-808-2953.

While he still doesn’t believe in the mandatory use of speed limiters (for the record, his own truck is governed at 107 km/h), Webster hopes the issue may be a catalyst for future change involving driver pay, detention time, false damage claims and other issues truckers have to deal with.

Petition launched

Jean Catudal, a Quebec-based owner/operator, has launched a different form of protest.

He has started an online petition which he plans to present to lawmakers.

“The activation of the speed limiter must stay a business decision, not a government mandate,” he wrote on his Web site. “Posted speed limits are to be respected by all road users and enforced by police.”

The petition can be viewed and signed at:

There were 61 signatures as Truck News went to press. Despite the backlash from drivers, Cansfield said her government “plan(s) to work with industry and safety experts to bring this forward in a timely and effective manner.”

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