OOIDA: Speed limiter mandate is tip of iceberg

| 12/16/2005

Professional trucker associations on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border believe a proposed government mandate for speed limiters on all trucks in one Canadian province is only part of the equation.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer and Rick Craig, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs, are hoping enough people speak up in opposition to speed limiters to nip any possible legislation in the bud before it passes in Ontario and spreads to other parts of North America .

As Land Line reported this week, the clock is ticking for public comment on the Ontario-born mandate called for by the Ontario Trucking Association.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario is soliciting public opinion only until Dec. 23.

OTA has asked for mandatory engine governors on all trucks originating in or operating in the province of Ontario at 105 km/h, or 65 mph.

“There’s so much of this junk that rolls down the pike. This one doesn’t pass the smell test,” Spencer said during a joint interview with Craig Thursday, Dec. 15, on the “Land Line Now” XM radio show. “Drivers work in an environment where they are paid almost exclusively for miles driven and then we have the people that benefit from that system that say we want you to be there on time, but we want you to drive slower.”

Spencer and Craig said they are worried about the possible bigger agendas at work with the issue of speed limiters.

“(OTA’s) intention is to go ahead and pursue, if they can get this passed in Ontario , to get Canada-wide implementation for speed limiters, as well as work with the ATA down here and get this implemented North America-wide,” Craig said.

OTA President David Bradley is also president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance and in an interview this week with Land Line, he outlined the reasons his organization wants mandatory speed limiters.

“We thought activating the speed limiter, which is on virtually every truck in North America , made the most sense,” he said. “It was evident to us that the technology works in Europe, and our challenge came to be trying to make it work in a North American environment, and hence the policy.”

Bradley’s organization cites safety and the environment as its driving factors.

Bradley acknowledged the opposition from the driving sect, particularly from owner-operators, who don’t buy his position on safety.

“I don’t mind a bit of debate,” he said. “I don’t mind a lot of debate, even those that take a contrary view, as long as we can have a positive debate. We’ve tried to listen to drivers’ concerns.”

And the debate continues.

Joanne Ritchie, executive director of Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada, which is also fighting the proposed mandate, challenges the OTA proposal on a number of fronts.

“I can’t imagine too many drivers and owner-operators supporting speed limiters,” Ritchie said. “I don’t want to be too cynical (but) I don’t know what their agenda is.”

Spencer and Craig have a few guesses about the OTA agenda.

“This supposed good public relations spin is going to create an environment to make it easier to advance another item, and that’s bigger and heavier trucks and bigger, heavier and longer combinations,” Spencer said. “This would make it easier politically for them to slide through the bigger-and-heavier environment with lawmakers, because the public won’t be on board with that.”

Spencer also said a proposed mandate would invite other provinces and states to implement split speed limits for automobiles and trucks.

“It’s going to create an environment to create that kind of legislation,” Spencer suggested. “You’re going to end up with a proliferation of differential speeds … and that’s going to make the highways less safe.”

Craig added the large motor carriers have problems with driver recruitment and retention when they voluntarily govern the speed of their fleets.

“They’re having problems retaining drivers (when they govern their engines),” he said. “Drivers don’t want to drive for them.”

With all this said, the clock continues to tick on the Dec. 23 public-comment deadline.

“A two-week comment period isn’t reasonable,” Ritchie said. “What’s the hurry? Who’s got the time limit on this thing?”

To give your opinion about mandatory speed limiters in Ontario and possibly other provinces and states, write before Dec. 23 to:

Attn: Dwain Smith, Senior Policy Advisor
Ministry of Transportation
Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch
3rd Floor, 301 St. Paul Street
St. Catherines , Ontario , Canada
L2R 7R4

You can also send comments via e-mail to: dwain.smith@mto.gov.on.ca or call Dwain Smith directly at (905) 704-2624.

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– By David Tanner, staff writer