Critics of proposed legislation in Ontario to govern truck engines by mandate say the attempt is nothing shy of election politics preying on the public’s perception of safety around heavy trucks.
With a provincial election looming in October, Ontario Minister of Transportation Donna Cansfield issued proposed legislation this week to require mandatory speed limiters on all heavy truck operating in the province – regardless where they are base plated.
The proposal, which toes the line of the Ontario Trucking Association of large motor carriers, includes U.S. trucks as well as those domiciled in Ontario or other provinces that use Ontario roadways. It would require that speed limiters – also referred to as engine governors – be set at 105 kilometers per hour, which is about 65 mph.
“This would apply to all large trucks traveling on Ontario roads, and it would come into effect in early or mid-2008,” Cansfield’s communication director, Jamie Rilet, told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio.
The Ontario House of Commons is currently in recess and cannot debate or vote on the legislation until after a provincial election Oct. 10.
Critics of the proposal, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, say it will help large motor carriers edge out small-business truckers.
“It affects cross-border trade and interstate commerce,” Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory affairs specialist for OOIDA, told Land Line. “This is all about shoving your competitor out of the marketplace.”
Cansfield and other Ontario government officials say the plan will help cut greenhouse-gas emissions and make highways safer in the process.
Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada, questions the motive about highway safety, particularly since Cansfield previously directed officials last year to study the issue.
“There were a couple of significant questions,” Ritchie told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio. “One concerning the whole issue around speed differentials on the highway, creating a condition where all traffic is not moving at or around the same rate of speed.
“Then there’s the whole issue of international trade and provincial trade. What are the consequences if one jurisdiction or one truck population has its engines governed by mandate, and what happens to other traffic flowing in and out of that jurisdiction?”
Cansfield’s sudden switch of gears has caused members of the opposition party to call it a matter of election politics.
“I think it’s trying to appease a certain sector but not all of their members are supportive of this legislation,” Member of Provincial Parliament Laurie Scott, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party for the region of Halliburton-Victoria-Brock, told Land Line.
Scott was the author of an identical bill filed in 2006 to mandate speed limiters. The House, governed by the opposing party, denied her attempt at that time.
“We’re all electioneering and making promises now,” she told Land Line. “The government could have brought in this legislation and passed it when I introduced it, but they dragged their feet, making it part of an election platform now.”
Reaction is still mixed about speed limiters, she said.
“The large trucking companies are basically doing this now,” she said. “Some of the small-business truckers are not happy.”
She promised public hearings on the issue once it reaches the platform for debate.
Rajkovacz and OOIDA Regulatory Affairs Director Rick Craig believe the measure would hinder U.S. truckers who make their living – or at least part of it – hauling in and out of Ontario, which is Canada’s most-populous province.
“A lot of American carriers won’t operate in Ontario if this happens,” Craig said, adding that large motor carriers that already use speed limiters within their fleets will take competitive control of the routes.
Enforcement is another issue, Craig said.
OOIDA, in partnership with OBAC in Canada, filed comments to the Ontario government in 2006.
And when the American Trucking Association followed the Ontario Trucking Association’s lead and filed a U.S.-based petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in January 2007, OOIDA was quick to weigh in.
“There is nothing desirable about turning trucks into rolling roadblocks and obstacles for other drivers,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said. “Slower isn’t safer. Every year, NHTSA accident data shows that cars are far more likely to run into the backs of trucks than the other way around. Real highway safety experts have always known that highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same speed.”
– By David Tanner, staff writer