MPP launches last-ditch challenge of speed limiters

QUEEN’S PARK, Ont. — Enactment of mandatory speed limiter legislation is only weeks away in Ontario, but that didn’t stop a provincial lawmaker from questioning the government’s rationale behind the law as truckers continue to struggle in a recession.

As reported today by Land Line magazine — the official publication of the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association — NDP MPP Gilles Bisson asked Transportation Minister James Bradley to explain why the Liberal Party deems it necessary to push forward with a mandate.

"At the very time that truckers need our support, why is your government forcing them to spend $4.5 million for technology that won’t make our roads safer and will make it even harder for those truckers to compete against American competitors?" Bisson asked Bradley during a parliamentary question period this week.

Bradley answered by saying statistics exist that show "very clearly" that speed limiters would increase road safety. He added that the Ontario Trucking Association "which represents most of the truckers in the province of Ontario," was "very enthusiastic about this being implemented."

However, Bradley’s statements are partly refuted by a series Transport Canada studies that cast doubt on the safety benefits of mandatory speed limiters.

The studies are considerate of the theory that trucks with activated speed limiters mean a reduction of severe truck-car accidents, but the reports also acknowledge that a greater differential in speed between cars and large trucks could result in more rear-end collisions and similar crashes.

The economic arguments against speed limiters ‘are very
strong’ says NDP MPP Gilles Bisson

Essentially, Transport Canada concludes, "as the volume of traffic and percentage of trucks increased, the safety gains associated with limiters "become less pronounced."

The OTA began lobbying for government-mandated speed limiters in November 2005 and convinced the Ministry of Transport this past spring that the policy was a good idea.

Officials then announced that speed limiters would be mandatory starting Jan. 1, 2009.

After question period Bisson explained why comments from the regulation’s opponents seem to fall on deaf ears.

“Sometimes people put themselves in a box, and they don’t know how to get out again. They don’t want to back down," Bisson told Land Line. “I will just say that we tried real hard to get him not to do this. We believe speed limiters are very impractical.”

Bisson and other transportation critics, including Member of Provincial Parliament Frank Klees of the Progressive Conservative Party, say the issue of speed limiters is not about safety.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to make it unsafe because you will have two trucks trying to pass each other and they’re both limited to 105 (kilometers per hour),” Bisson said.

“The economic arguments on this are very strong and we would ask why, in a time of economic difficulty, would you impose these increased costs on independent operators?”

During the debate, though, Bradley pointed out Bisson’s apparent change of heart. The NDPer supported speed limiters back in March.

"I remember you said that on March 19, 2008, you were very good when you said, ‘in principle, we don’t have a problem (with speed limiters)," Bradley reminded Bisson. "I agreed with you then. And I still agree with that."

Still, Owner-operator associations including OOIDA and the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada (OBAC) praised the lawmakers who continue to challenge the legislation with opposing facts. The U.S. group is preparing a legal challenge against the province if it proceeds with enforcing the new law.

Laura O’Neill, government affairs counsel for OOIDA, said Minister Bradley’s answer to Bisson during the question period included safety statistics that don’t exist. She was also critical of the minister’s reluctance to acknowledge owner-operators.

“Minister Bradley’s response makes me doubt that he actually read the Transport Canada speed limiter studies," O’Neill said. "For him to say that the OTA represents truckers is a show of ignorance."

— Files reposted with permission from Land Line


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