By David Tanner
Persistence and creativity have paid off so far for trucker Lee Ingratta.
The one-truck owner-operator from Gravenhurst, Ontario, has captured the attention of the trucking community for the method he used to beat a ticket for an alleged violation of the provincial speed-limiter law for heavy trucks.
A judge tossed Ingratta’s case out of court on June 4. Not surprisingly, provincial enforcement officials have filed an appeal.
During an inspection at a scale house in July 2009, an inspector with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario asked Ingratta for permission to connect an external device to a port on Ingratta’s Peterbilt to check for compliance with the speed-limiter law. Under the law, computerized settings must not allow a truck to exceed 105 km/h, or 65 mph.
Things got interesting from there.
“He came over with this little gizmo and wanted to plug it in to the computer,” said Ingratta, a self-proclaimed “computer guy” who owned his own computer shop for 25 years before returning to trucking in 2004.
“I’m thinking to myself, if he plugs this in to one guy’s truck, and then he takes it out and tries to plug it in to my truck, what happens if there’s a little charge of static electricity in this thing? Is he grounding the thing out? Is he going to zap my computer? No, he’s not plugging it in until he signs this waiver,” he said.
The “just in case” waiver Ingratta drafted and carried with him says that he will consent to a speed-limiter inspection only if the officer or agency takes full responsibility for any damage that may occur as a result. The officer disregarded the waiver and cited Ingratta for “refusal” to allow entry to the computer port.
The judge, however, said Ingratta did not refuse and tossed the case. It’s not over yet, however, as the province isn’t going down without a fight of its own.
“The Ministry is aware of the case and is appealing the decision,” MTO spokesman Bob Nichols told Land Line.
The Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada, of which Ingratta is a member, went public with the news of the case following Ingratta’s court decision.
“I think the fact that the province is appealing shows they’re concerned about that,” OBAC Executive Director Joanne Ritchie said.
Ritchie said OBAC began raising concerns several years ago about issues of driver privacy and the potential for computer-related problems resulting from port-data exchanges.
“This whole thing about warranty issues – they’re worried about that because they could get themselves into trouble because that tool they use is not licensed software,” Ritchie said. “Engine makers don’t give that to just anybody and it’s very expensive.”
Drivers Against Speed Limiter Legislation, a Facebook group operated by OOIDA Member Scott Mooney of Fergus, Ontario, has been abuzz with the news about Ingratta’s case.
Mooney, also a member of OBAC, was preparing to go to court in late July on a speed-limiter ticket of his own that he received in Napanee, Ontario.
Mooney is hinging his argument on studies that show speed differentials among vehicle classes are dangerous and that a speed limiter is actually costing him more in fuel – not less. Then, there are privacy and warranty issues.
“Dealerships do not want any unauthorized personnel tampering with a truck’s ECM,” Mooney said.
As Mooney prepared his case, Ingratta was gearing up for the province’s appeal. No date had been set as of press time.
“Either they’re going to keep shoving this stuff down our throat and we keep taking it, or we need to stand up for ourselves,” Ingratta said.
“It’s our equipment, and it’s our trucks. We have a right. We have some rights left, anyway.” LL