Driver feedback on speed limiters pouring in

| 12/22/2005

Friday, Dec. 23, is the deadline for public comment to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario about a motor carrier proposal to govern the engines of all trucks in the Canadian province at 105 km/h or 65 mph.

The proposal by the Ontario Trucking Association on behalf of its large motor carriers is not just about Ontario, but an eventual proposal for all of Canada and even all of North America.

Associations representing drivers and owner-operators like Owner-Operators' Business Association of Canada and U.S.-based OOIDA are fighting the proposal for several reasons, including OTA's contention that reduced speed of trucks means safer highways.

The associations are citing a study done by the University of Arkansas to rally against a government mandate on speed limiters. That study, done by Dr. Steven Johnson, shows that “a higher variance of vehicle speeds in the traffic flow increases the risk of accidents” and that “speed limiters will cause speed variance.”

Driver feedback has poured into both associations and the Ontario ministry, which is collecting the official responses for a future report.

OBAC Executive Director Joanne Ritchie told Land Line her phone has been ringing off the hook and her e-mail box has been filling up, despite the peak of the holiday season.

“I'm pretty pleased with what (drivers are) sending in,” she said. “I think they are taking the time to look at the proposal and it's not just a knee-jerk reaction.”

Something happened at the government level since the Ontario Trucking Association formally announced its proposal in mid-November that caused MTO to open up a two-week comment period on speed limiters from Dec. 10 to Dec. 23.

Most interested parties, including OOIDA and OBAC, didn't hear about the comment period until a couple of days had passed. Ritchie says the comment period was too short.

“I feel a bit like Bob Cratchit labouring away on Christmas Eve while the MTO and OTA scrooges are probably enjoying the festivities of the season,” she wrote in a follow-up e-mail to Land Line .

Interested persons can check the Land Line Magazine Web site, for a special report on the speed limiter issue that also explains how to submit comments.

MTO Senior Policy Advisor Dwain Smith is collecting the comments. He told Land Line this week that MTO will not make any formal statements about the comments coming into his office. He acknowledged that comments were coming in, and that pleases people like Ritchie, even though there are unknown factors at work.

“I think we're making a good argument, and I think we'll at least have a well-thought-through response from the MTO,” she said.

Ritchie has asked the Ontario ministry for a larger window for public comments, but she had not yet received a response to her request. In fact, many details about the comment period are in question, including how official it is meant to be and what the next stage is.

Ritchie says Canada has a different way of rulemaking than the U.S.

Drivers themselves continue to write to the Ontario ministry and are copying their messages to Ritchie and to Land Line here at OOIDA.

Here are a few comments from the open road:

“ If this proposal goes on to legislation, this will show the whole North American industry of trucking how out-of-reality some of the owners of large carriers are,” says Jean Catudal, an owner-operator from Yamaska, Quebec, Canada.

Wayne Robertson from Kitchener, Ontario, told Land Line that “We already have the speed limit signs, the police, the radar guns and the patrol cars, which, as a tax payer in Ontario, I and all the other tax payers have provided, thus we do not require more rules, legislation and expense to control speed.”

He makes a good point.

Marlies McKee of Innisfil, Ontario, wrote to Land Line that he will make a career move if the matter gets passed as legislation.

“Should this be implemented, I, for one will surrender my Class ‘A' license as I hope many more drivers will do to,” McKee says. “Ontario must not be too interested in retaining experienced, safe, clean and educated drivers.”

American driver David Swanson, Jr., wrote to Land Line : “ The proposal is offensive to American owner-operators and is designed to keep us out of Ontario.”

The end of the comment period is going to lead into some serious down time because of the holiday season. Smith says the ministry will likely be in a position to make a statement about the comments being heard after the holidays.

Ritchie says she doubts the government employees are taking their work home with them over Christmas and New Year's.

-- By Dave Tanner