SPECIAL REPORT: ‘Let the people speak’ on Ontario speed limiters

| 5/15/2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008 – The debate about speed limiters in Ontario, Canada, is not over yet, according to OOIDA officials, despite claims by large motor carriers that a government mandate is a done deal.

OOIDA staff and members are continuing to work to defeat legislation that seeks to mandate the activation of speed limiters at 105 km/h, or 65 mph, on heavy trucks doing business in the province.

Following a parliamentary vote on Tuesday, May 13, to send the legislation known as Bill 41 to committee, the work is more important now than ever, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

“OOIDA has been working with the government to provide a different perspective to the one-sided propaganda that they have received thus far from the proponents of speed limiters,” OOIDA Government Affairs Counsel Laura O’Neill told Land Line.

OOIDA officials are preparing to deliver comments to the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Justice Policy to urge lawmakers to consider implications that include cross-border trade, interstate commerce and competition.

The standing committee has yet to schedule public hearings, committee clerk Susan Sourial said, but the committee has begun receiving public comments and requests from people wanting to testify. Sourial said comments are being accepted by mail, e-mail, fax or phone. Click here for the addresses and phone numbers for the committee and to check on dates for upcoming hearings.

Ontario Transportation Minister Jim Bradley introduced Bill 41 in March, designed to regulate the top speed of heavy trucks by using computer technology.

The Ontario Trucking Association of large motor carriers has been pushing for such a government mandate since November 2005. When the Ontario Liberal Party gained a majority in October 2007, the transportation minister vowed to implement OTA’s speed-limiter platform.

Members of opposition parties, including Frank Klees, a member of Ontario’s provincial parliament from the Progressive Conservative Party, have vowed to keep an open mind to the plight of small-business truckers. Klees recently told Land Line that all segments of the trucking industry deserve to be heard.

OTA officials released a press release on Wednesday, May 14, stating that the opposition parties have been “pandering to opponents of the bill and trying to embarrass the government by promising public hearings at the committee stage.”

OTA also stated that “it is very unusual for government bills to be significantly altered at this stage of the game.”

Not so, O’Neill said.

“OTA seems to be under the impression that the government exists only to do its bidding and that those in the minority who are concerned about safety and the economic vitality of the province should be silent and do what they are told,” O’Neill said. “The government is right to let the public speak. In fact, it is their duty to let the public speak, particularly when lives and the cost of goods are at stake.”

Once the Standing Committee on Justice Policy has public hearings and sets a final date to receive comments, the legislation will be returned to the Ontario House of Commons for a third reading and final vote.

OOIDA officials hope that lawmakers will consider amending the bill in committee to protect the businesses of owner-operators.

“We have every indication to believe that they are receptive to ideas,” O’Neill said.

To submit comments and/or a request to testify, write to the following address:
            Clerk Susan Sourial
            Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Justice Policy
            99 Wellesley St. W., Room 1405
            Whitney Block
            Queen’s Park
            Toronto, Ontario
            Canada M7A 1A2

You may also call the clerk’s office at (416) 325-7352, or fax comments or requests to (416) 325-3505.

– By David Tanner, staff writer