OTA Faces Government over Bill 169

TORONTO — An Ontario bill that proposes higher fines and penalties for speeders won’t work if enforcement isn’t given teeth, says Ontario Trucking Association president David Bradley.

During an appearance today before the Legislature’s Standing Committee on General Government, which is examining Bill 169, the Transit & Safety Act, Bradley said he’s generally supportive of the bill, but suggested several areas where it could be improved.

“We were very pleased to see that a major focus of Bill 169 is addressing the problem of speeding through a number of measures,” said Bradley. “(But) increased fines and penalties are only as effective as the speeder’s perceived risk of being caught.

“Without additional enforcement, either through new technologies or increased OPP presence on our highways, we are concerned that these measures alone will have no significant impact on driver behaviour.”

The OTA is also working on its own plans for speeding trucks. In July it announced it wants Ontario to be the first jurisdiction in North America to make speed limiters on trucks mandatory.

The group says it will push for the rule to be enacted across Canada, and eventually, North America. But it promises it’s fully prepared to lobby for the requirement for Ontario only, if it needs to. The OTA is currently trying to establish the maximum speed it would like to see legislated and figure out how to turn the principle into practice. A final draft is expected later this fall.

Meanwhile, Bradley also praised the government for attempting through Bill 169 to speed clean-up following a highway incident by empowering police officers to call in recovery companies and making vehicle owners responsible. However, he added, fees charged by recovery firms need to be regulated to avoid gouging.

He suggested that the Bill be amended to give the Ministry the ability to cap the amount that can be charged for the clean-up in cases where the towing company is acting under the direction of a police officer.

According to the OTA, Bradley’s offer was met with some degree of openness on the part of committee members, in particular Jean-Marc Lalonde, MPP (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation, who suggested OTA develop the wording of an amendment to allow regulation of recovery fees that the committee can discuss during
clause-by-clause review.

Bradley also cautioned that holding vehicle owners responsible for the cost of recovery does not necessarily mean that the vehicle or vehicles responsible for the accident will be liable for the costs. “We are concerned that the party which appears
to have the deepest pockets — which in the case of a car/truck crash probably means the trucking company — will be on the hook,” he said. “OTA is pushing to make it a requirement that all motorists have mandatory insurance coverage for the cost of recovery.”

Bradley wasn’t finished there. He also raised concerns about the amendment under Bill 169 to allow the Ontario government to
designate any lane as a high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane. He suggested the MTO only install such lanes where they can be physically separated from regular lanes and that the government enact a system for reviewing the impact of HOV lanes on congestion.

“A number of jurisdictions in the U.S. where HOV lanes have been created have found that these lanes can in fact create more collisions, particularly when there are no concrete barriers physically separating HOV from regular lanes,” he said.

Additionally, Bradley said he hopes the sweeping new powers that Bill 169 would give the MTO are used to regulate driving schools, course content, and instructors, en route to eliminating so-called “licence mills.”

Lastly, Bradley strenuously objected to the fact that the Bill strengthens the existing provisions in the Highway Traffic Act regarding the absolute-liability offence for wheel-off incidents rather than changing the Act to make this law fairer.

“The wheel-off offences remain an absolute-liability offence, denying truck owners their right to launch a due-diligence defence,” he says. “We have always argued that the absolute-liability aspect of this law is a violation of natural justice
and we continue to do so.”

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