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Quebec moves full speed ahead towards speed limiter rollout

QUEBEC CITY, Que. - It looks like Quebec will be the first province on the block to have speed limiter legislation. If the recently- tabled Bill 42 (an Act to Amend the Highway Safety Code) passes the...

QUEBEC CITY, Que. –It looks like Quebec will be the first province on the block to have speed limiter legislation. If the recently- tabled Bill 42 (an Act to Amend the Highway Safety Code) passes the parliamentary hurdles, companies could be required to set their trucks’ speed limiters’ at a top speed of 105 km/h as early as Apr. 1, 2008.

The Bill affects trucks over 11,000 kilograms. It allows for certain, so-far unspecified trucks over 11,000 kgs to be exempt. Transports Quebec does not yet know whether the final wording of the legislation will cover only trucks with Quebec plates, or also trucks from other provinces or from the United States.

In November the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA), which fully supports this aspect of Bill 42, briefed the opposition parties in Quebec City about the arguments against speed limiters.

The QTA would like to see other provinces prepare speed limiter legislation too, so there will be no “inequities,” as QTA president Marc Cadieux puts it, but clearly such a vision is not a show-stopper for Transports Quebec and the government. “There are discussions with other provinces and states about that. But a first scenario is to have speed limiters only for trucks with Quebec plates. A second scenario is to have limiters for all trucks. It is not definite,” says a Transports Quebec representative.

One might think that Ontario would like Quebec to hold its horses until it can get its own speed limiter legislation in place -harmonization and all that – but a representative with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) seems placid about Bill 42.

“There is an Ontario-Quebec working group and there are discussions about a harmonized introduction of speed limiters in the two provinces,” says MTO representative Bob Nichols. “The staff are currently developing legislation that will cap speeds at 105 km/h. It could come in by the fall of 2008. It will be followed by a 12-month education period, so full enforcement could come in the fall of 2009.”

Even though Bill 42 specifies an implementation date of Apr. 1, 2008, it is not at all unusual for actual enforcement dates to come much later, leaving wiggle room for harmonization, if desired. (Incidentally, Bill 42 specifies fines for non-compliance ranging from $350 to $1,050).

The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) is happy with Quebec’s unilateral declaration of speed limiter dependence.

“We are delighted that Quebec is the first province to move forward on it. We also have assurances that Ontario will move forward on it. The new minister, Jim Bradley, is aware of the commitment and there is no evidence of waffling,” says Doug Switzer, OTA manager of government relations.

He adds that Ontario fleets are prepared to comply with Quebec laws to impose speed limiters.

One might wonder whether Quebec jumped the gun in introducing its speed limiter legislation. After all, Transport Canada is working on five studies to learn more about their use: trade and competitiveness; traffic safety and modeling; claims of environmental benefits; tampering; and fleet case studies.

According to Brian Orrbine, chief of motor carriers in the Road Safety Directorate of Transport Canada, the studies are expected to be completed and submitted to the Council of Deputy Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety by the spring of 2008.

Switzer brushes aside the suggestion that any province should wait until the federal studies are completed. “It took the feds 15 years to develop the hours-of-service rules. We think they are repeating work the other provinces have already done. Ontario and Quebec have done their homework and have worked with their safety experts. We are not waiting for another generation to pass while the feds think about it.”

Transports Quebec fields the “why now?” question this way: “(Speed limiters) is a request from the industry. It is not from us. We do not have a study (on speed limiters specifically), but we know it is good for safety (other studies cite a relationship between speed and the likelihood of fatal injuries) and you pay less for fuel. It is good for the environment. That is why the industry associations want to put the Bill to the National Assembly.”

The American Trucking Associations likely has no beef with this aspect of Bill 42 either. In an Oct. 26, 2007 letter to Ontario’s MTO, the ATA writes, “We do not believe the adoption of a speed limiter regulation will impair US-Canada trade.”

Bill 42 also forbids the use of cell phones while driving, but the wording,”hand-held device” satisfies Cadieux that truckers will still be able to use hands-free cell phones.

Bill 42 also resurrects photo radar. The QTA goes purple at its mention, and the trucking union Travailleurs autonomes Quebec has already vowed to fight it tooth and nail. Stay tuned. •

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