Ontario and Quebec require trucks to be equipped with speed limiters, but enforcement teams have stopped using one of the tools meant to spot offenders. Did it lead to unwarranted charges? (File photo)
TORONTO, Ont. — Commercial vehicle enforcement agencies in Ontario and Quebec have abandoned the use of the EzTap device to enforce speed limiter laws in both provinces, raising questions about how much enforcement of the rule actually exists.
Since 2008, most trucks operating in Ontario and Quebec have been required to have their maximum road speed mechanically limited to 105 km/h. Initially, enforcement used an aftermarket plug-in device called the EzTap3, to read from the electronic control module whether or not the speed limiter was set.
In late 2019, Burness Paralegal Services, based out of Thamesford, Ont., prepared to challenge the reliability of the device on behalf of a U.S. fleet that was charged with non-compliance of the speed limiter rule in April 2018. The truck – a 2014 Freightliner with Detroit Diesel engine – was examined at the Sarnia inspection facility and found to have its speed limiter set to 116 km/h.
Jodi Burness, president of Burness Paralegal Services, had voiced concerns about the reliability of the EzTap device as far back as 2014. When the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) began appealing convictions against operators of Cummins engines of certain model years, her curiosity was heightened.
Burness enlisted an expert witness, Don Laverdure, who produced a five-page report raising many questions about the reliability of the device. Laverdure, a certified truck and coach technician and diagnostic software programmer, noted in his report that determining the maximum road speed is not as simple as reading a single parameter.
“Different manufacturers have different methods of limiting speed and use as many as 15 parameters to limit maximum road speed under different conditions,” Laverdure wrote. He pointed out engine manufacturers are also inconsistent in the naming of the required setting. For example, the Cummins parameter is referred to as the Accelerator Maximum Vehicle Speed, while Detroit Diesel calls it the Max Road Speed.
“I am of the opinion that it is not possible to determine the maximum vehicle speed as required by the regulation or the [Ontario] Highway Traffic Act through only one or two parameters in most cases,” he wrote. Driver reward schemed that give fuel-efficient drivers more throttle speed under selected conditions were also seen as a source of confusion.
Laverdure also found the EzTap to be “highly susceptible to interference from other radio signals such as those derived from CB transceivers, cell phones, cordless telephones, sun spots, and wireless WiFi routers.”
Known issues with adapters
He also discovered an online technical note from Cummins that referenced known issues regarding the EzTap and other datalink adapters.
“Don Laverdure came up with 20 different reasons as to why this device wasn’t reliable,” Burness told Today’s Trucking. “That’s the key word: reliability. If you’re going to go into a courtroom as a prosecuting entity and expect to get a conviction, you have to ensure that device is reliable and accurate.”
Not to be outdone, the MTO commissioned HRYCAY Consulting Engineers to produce a report looking to discredit Laverdure’s findings. Produced on March 26, 2019, the report highlighted speed limiter readings taken by the engineering firm at weigh stations in Sarnia and Windsor over the course of several days.
“The tractors were first imaged by MTO officers using the MTO tool following their standard procedure,” the report read. “Directly after the MTO imaging, we imaged the tractors using the engine manufacturer’s software package with the engine manufacturer’s recommended Nexiq communication interface.”
While there were some small conversion and rounding issues when converting from miles per hour to kilometers per hour, the test found that “all of the values are consistent with one another when rounded to the nearest whole number.”
The report concluded: “The MTO tool was able to properly obtain the correct maximum vehicle speed setting from every Freightliner tractor which was imaged. Based on the testing performed to date, the MTO speed limiter imaging tool is suitable and accurate for the purposes of obtaining the applicable speed limiter data for Freightliner tractors with Detroit Diesel engines.”
Burness was informed the morning of the trial, Oct. 29, that charges against the U.S. fleet would be dropped. The trial would not proceed.
“[Their] expert was ready to go. He was there — that’s how prepared they were – when I received an email saying they’re not proceeding anymore,” Burness said.
While the MTO didn’t indicate why it was giving up the fight, Burness said it was likely an economic decision since most jurisdictions had already phased out the use of the EzTap.
The MTO confirmed to Today’s Trucking that it has now completely abandoned use of the EzTap device for speed limiter enforcement in Ontario.
“MTO officers are no longer using the EzTap devices to enforce speed limiter legislation,” MTO spokesman Bob Nichols wrote in an email to Today’s Trucking. He said there were several reasons behind the decision, including its inability to identify speed limiter evasion techniques, and the fact it was not designed to read engine software after a certain date.
“It’s a rule with no teeth.” – Mike Millian, Private Motor Truck Council of Canada
Marie-Josee Michaud, public relations agent for Control Routier Quebec, also confirmed “The EzTap device is not used anymore by Control Routier Quebec. We only have the laser radar and the speedometer of the patrol vehicle.”
Nichols said the MTO decided LIDAR (light imaging detection and ranging) was a better approach. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and other municipal police services are also able to enforce the speed limiter regulation using that technology.
But while the Highway Traffic Act requires most commercial trucks to have their speed limiters set to 105 km/h or below, using LIDAR, charges are applicable only to those vehicles traveling at speeds of 115 km/h or greater, the MTO confirmed.
Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC), said the EzTap device was not frequently used to begin with, and that speed limiter enforcement is “lax and infrequent.”
“It is a rule with no teeth,” he said. “Only compliant carriers who want to follow the rule are, and those who do not wish to govern their trucks at the required 105 km/h just don’t bother and have little to no fear of getting caught.”
While enforcement of the speed limiter law may be lax, the MTO says it has stepped up its targeting of speeding by heavy trucks. In September 2018, a pilot was launched allowing the MTO to use LIDAR to enforce truck speeds.
“Since the start of the pilot, MTO officers have laid approximately 1,600 speeding charges,” Nichols said, adding that figure includes speed limiter charges laid when the truck exceeded 115 km/h.
Ontario Trucking Association support
The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), which actively lobbied for the speed limiter legislation as far back as 2005, said it’s continuing to work with the MTO to improve speed enforcement techniques.
“The historic leading cause of commercial vehicle collisions, when the commercial vehicle operator is at fault, is driving too fast or too fast for conditions,” said OTA president Stephen Laskowski. “OTA will be addressing the issue of commercial speed enforcement and speed limiter enforcement under various [government] working groups.”
The province of Ontario recently announced plans to verify compliance with emissions aftertreatment requirements when heavy trucks undergo their annual inspections, and Laskowski hinted a similar approach could be applied to check for compliance with speed limiter regulations.
“This same process could identify new technology and test to confirm the proper activation of speed limiters,” he suggested. “OTA and the Ontario enforcement community have and are working on solutions to ensure better compliance for commercial operators with regards to highway speeds and the speed limiter rule.”
As for Burness, the decision to drop the EzTap was a win for the industry.
“They have completely abandoned the use of EzTap, and in my view it’s a victory,” she said. “But I beat myself up a little bit, because I feel like so many more trials happened that didn’t need to happen.”
Questions over the reliability of the EzTap may leave a sour taste in the mouths of truckers who’ve been charged and convicted using the device. Burness said they can file for an appeal citing fresh evidence, but that it’s an ordeal that few of them would likely pursue.
Who needs to comply?
Commercial trucks with a GVWR of more than 11,794 kg (26,000 lb.) operating in Ontario and Quebec must have their engine’s speed limiter parameter set to a maximum speed of 105 km/h.
The rule applies to trucks built after Dec. 31, 1994, and equipped with electronic engine controls.
In Quebec, fines for non-compliance range from $350 to $1,050. In Ontario, the fine is $310.
The requirement applies to trucks operating in Ontario, regardless of where they’re domiciled. The U.S. American Trucking Associations has also been pushing for the mandatory use of speed limiters south of the border, but no such legislation has been passed.