Speed Limiter Debate Rolling Again in Ontario

WELLAND, ON. — A ruling Wednesday by Justice of the Peace Brett Kelly looks to have re-ignited the speed limiter debate in Ontario.

According to Kelly, the province’s law that requires large trucks limited to 105km/hr goes against the Charter that guarantees life, liberty and the security of the person.

The person that brought the case to court was Gene Michaud, a driver of 38 years who was handed a $490 ticket by an MTO enforcement officer for having his truck governed at 109km/hr instead of the required 105km/hr.

Funded by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Michaud went to court and argued that the law put his life in danger.

“His ability to have full care and control of all aspects of the vehicle and therefore safety is impaired as opposed to improved, and the situations described by Mr. Michaud – while they may be at times examples of poor driver practice – they are directly and indirectly the result of the regulation,” wrote the Justice. “Mr. Michaud has reason to be concerned for his security of person as he is being placed in a dangerous situation.”

While the ruling won’t overturn the law, the question now is how much weight — if any — it will have on speed limiter court cases. Michaud’s lawyer, David Crocker, of Davis LLP, told the Toronto Star that he has other speed limiter cases “and I am going to argue in each one of them that Justice of the Peace Kelly’s decision should apply.”

OOIDA President Jim Johnston told Land Line Magazine that the ruling could set a precedent, impacting similar case both here and to the south. (Land Line Magazine is the official publication of OOIDA).

According to a statement by the Missouri-based Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the group funded a driver’s challenge of the law in a Welland, Ont. court. The Justice of the Peace sided with the driver and, according to reports, he interpreted the rule to be at odds with the Charter of Rights.
 
In a press release, the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) wrote: “[C]ontrary to some reports, the lower court ruling isn’t binding and the law hasn’t been struck down; nor does it require any amendments to the HTA legislation. The OTA has been assured by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation that it is committed to road safety and will continue to enforce the law.”

In a press release, OTA president David Bradley equated the ruling to someone beating a traffic ticket. “It means nothing; the law stands,” he said bluntly.

OTA also pointed to a recent road safety report that stated the truck speed limiter legislation has helped make Ontario the safest jurisdiction in North America, specifically to the 24 percent drop in truck related fatalities in 2009 — the year the speed limiter law went into full swing.

That report, as well as OTA’s conclusion that speed limiters drove down truck fatalities, is already being debated in various social media circles.

This week also saw a report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on a March 2011 bus crash that saw 17 people killed due to fatigued motorcoach driver where speed was also a factor. In their recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the NTSB recommended that, among other things, trucks and buses be outfitted with “advanced speed-limiting technologies.” 

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