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Truckers respond to speed limiter plan

TORONTO, Ont. - Owner/operator groups on both sides of the border have lashed out against the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) and its controversial speed limiter policy....

TORONTO, Ont. – Owner/operator groups on both sides of the border have lashed out against the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) and its controversial speed limiter policy.

The policy, which would require all trucks operating in Ontario to be governed at 105 km/h, has also sparked the ire of truck drivers from coast-to-coast. Truck West was inundated with phone calls and e-mails from readers – the vast majority opposing the new policy.

David Bradley, president of the OTA, said the association was prepared for some backlash and remains undeterred despite the negative feedback from drivers.

“OTA is not deterred by the negative reaction the policy has generated amongst some drivers and owner/operators,” Bradley told Truck West. “We anticipated there would be this type of reaction from some and were sensitive to driver views from the outset.”

He points out the OTA invited driver input while developing the policy and even used a third-party public opinion company to gauge the potential reaction from drivers. Still, those behind the wheel and the groups that represent them have held nothing back in their harsh assessment of the policy. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation held a brief public comment period in December and the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada (OBAC) took the opportunity to file a 23-page report condemning the policy.

Executive director Joanne Ritchie said “The proposed speed limiters will have a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of professional drivers, as well as the safety of all highway users. When you have cars going faster than trucks, that in fact creates unsafe conditions. When you get trucks in the left lane or right lane going slower, it creates all kinds of problems with cars weaving around them, trying to get on and off the Interstates.”

OBAC’s bigger brother to the south, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers’ Association (OOIDA) also weighed in on the subject. Its leader Jim Johnston brought the subject to light in the U.S., issuing a release that warned the group’s 133,000 members that “They’re not just wanting this for Ontario, they’re wanting this for all of North America.”

Johnston has been equally critical of the policy.

Both groups filed formal comments with the MTO, as did many of the drivers who contacted Truck West. The MTO’s Dwain Smith was assigned the task of soliciting public feedback on the policy and he acknowledged the phones were ringing off the hook. However, as Truck West went to press, Smith said his department was still in the process of analyzing the feedback and reviewing the Ministry’s findings. He wouldn’t tip his hand as to the type of feedback he received but said Transport Minister Harinder Takhar will be brought up to speed on the subject and an update will be provided, probably around the end of January.

OBAC’s Ritchie condemned the Ministry for rushing the comment period – it lasted just 10 days and was held during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

“I asked (the MTO) what the big hurry is and was told: ‘It’s no secret that OTA has made this a very public issue, and the Minister wants to respond as quickly as possible,'” Ritchie said.

While the OTA has taken its lumps since announcing the policy, Bradley said if the proposal becomes law, drivers will come to accept it.

“Much of the opposition seems to come more from the point of view of ‘No-one is going to tell me what to do’ as opposed to any real objection to the merits of speed limiters,” he points out.

“Clearly, that spirit of independence that many owner/operators hold dear is coming to the fore. But, all businesses must operate within certain parameters and regulations. That doesn’t make them any less independent or the competition any less fierce.”

He also said other Canadian jurisdictions are throwing their support behind the initiative, which the OTA hopes to roll out across the country and eventually the entire continent.

“Things are going very well in terms of support from the other Canadian provincial trucking associations,” he told Truck West. “We have heard from six of the seven provincial trucking associations and all are basically in support of the policy with the odd local issue raised here and there.”

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