TORONTO, Ont. - A long-awaited and much-maligned law was introduced in the Ontario Legislature March 19 that would require all trucks operating within the province to have their speed mechanically lim...
TAMPER PROOF?: Matt Koski of Toromont Cat programs the speed limiter of a truck at 105 km/h.
TORONTO, Ont. –A long-awaited and much-maligned law was introduced in the Ontario Legislature March 19 that would require all trucks operating within the province to have their speed mechanically limited to 105 km/h. It marks the beginning of the endgame for the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) and its partner associations including the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which have been lobbying for the law for two and a half years.
The law, as written, would apply to all trucks operating in Ontario, regardless of where they are domiciled.
Specifically, Bill 41, introduced by Ontario Transport Minister Jim Bradley (no relation to OTA chief David Bradley) reads: “No person shall drive, or permit the operation of, a commercial motor vehicle on a highway unless the vehicle is equipped with a speed-limiting system that is activated and functioning in accordance with the regulations.”
While the wording appears to encompass all trucks -including those built prior to the mid-90s when speed limiters first became a standard feature on engines – OTA’s Bradley assured Truck News that only trucks with speed limiter technology built into them will be covered by the law.
“That will be clarified in the regulations,” he said.
But while the wording of the legislation is likely to be fine-tuned, it now appears very unlikely that the controversial Bill will be defeated. Once a Bill is introduced in the Ontario Legislature, “it is the government’s expectation that barring Opposition stalling, shifting government priorities, or unforeseen circumstances, the Bill will pass, and the government will bring its considerable resources to bear on making sure this happens,” says a document on the Ontario government’s Web site.
The Bill is expected to gain all-party support (remember, a member of the Opposition Conservative party attempted to introduce the law as a private-member’s Bill back in 2006), which means there may not be any appetite to defeat the proposed law at Queen’s Park.
The OTA says speed limiters will improve highway safety while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 280 kilotonnes per year.
OTA’s Bradley said the law was “a significant step forward for highway safety and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and added the association “urges the Ontario Legislature to pass this legislation without delay.”
But despite the momentum gained by the movement, the issue remains extremely divisive within the industry, both inside Ontario’s borders and even in outside jurisdictions. The owner/operator community, represented by both the Owner- Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC) and the Owner- Operators Independent Drivers’ Association (OOIDA) in the US, has been the most vocal in condemning the proposed law.
OBAC executive director Joanne Ritchie told Truck News that “MTO is pandering to a handful of carriers who are either too cheap, too lazy or too greedy to compete fairly. Rather than pay their drivers a decent rate, invest in training and anti-idle technology, and implement internal safety and compliance regimes, these carriers have bamboozled government into taking these responsibilities off their shoulders.”
She questioned Minister Bradley’s contention that the speed limiter law will get speeding trucks off the highway.
“Stepped-up enforcement of speed limits and reckless driving will,” she countered. “The proposed legislation will not achieve the government’s purported objectives of a cleaner environment and safer roads. It’s a red herring designed to take the heat off the cops that have failed miserably at getting speeding and reckless driving on our highways under control.”
South of the border, the OOIDA, which represents 150,000 members, is also opposed to the law.
“We have been looking at the NAFTA implications,” said Rick Craig, director of regulatory affairs with OOIDA. “We do have attorneys looking at it and the impact this could have on trade.”
In the meantime, Craig said those who oppose the law should continue to call, write and e-mail their local MPPs. OOIDA is watching with interest, with the expectation that carrier groups in the US may follow suit if the Ontario law is successfully introduced. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has already voiced its support for mandatory speed control in the US, although it prefers the settings to be fixed at the OEM level.
“This really becomes sort of the first battle ground,” Craig told Truck News.
While carrier groups in the US have expressed some support for similar legislation on their side of the border, not all US-based fleets support the Ontario initiative. Kendra Adams, acting president of the New York State Motor Truck Association told Truck News that the issue remains contentious among her association’s members.
“Our carriers are split on it,” Adams said.
The association hasn’t taken a formal position for or against Ontario’s proposed rule. While Adams was hesitant to comment further on the Ontario proposal, she added “In light of rising fuel prices, we’re seeing more and more of our carriers reducing speed limits on their vehicles.”
Bruce Richards, president of the Private Motor Truck Council (PMTC) of Canada, another association that has opposed the mandatory enforcement of speed limiters, says his group’s position has not changed.
“We’re still trying to get the Ministry to take a broader approach to speed control and not zero in on trucks specifically,” said Richards. “We’re not anti-speed limiters. But if we zero in on trucks, we run the risk of overlooking the larger part of the vehicle population.”
Richards said he expects the Bill to become law, because “As I understand it, all the Opposition parties are in favour. It’s a popular move to make – it’s a no-brainer for a politician to say ‘I’m going to control the speed of trucks.'”
So with the speed limiter legislation poised to become law, attention must now turn to enforcement tactics. Emna Dhahak, senior media liaison officer with the MTO, told Truck News that “MTO enforcement officers will be trained on devices capable of reading speed limiter settings and detecting tampering. This technology will be used at strategic roadside locations. As well, the legislation allows the police and MTO to charge a vehicle operator and driver for not having an activated speed limiter, if the vehicle is given a speeding ticket over a prescribed speed.”
She said any penalties would likely also count against a carrier’s CVOR rating.
The training of enforcement officers is not yet underway, the MTO official told Truck News, but she said “If the legislation is passed, Ministry staff will be developing supporting regulations over the summer, after which officer training will commence.”
When the regulations come into force, probably next year, MTO plans to launch an educational period of six to 12 months before cracking down with fines. For coastto-coast reaction, see related stories, continuing to pg. 21.