OBAC raises privacy concerns over speed limiters

| 12/12/2008

Government officials in Ontario and Quebec have consistently ignored input from owner-operators on the issue of speed limiters, including the biggest issue of all – personal privacy – according to the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada.

OBAC Executive Director Joanne Ritchie sent a letter to government officials on Thursday, Dec. 11, raising privacy concerns over the enforcement of provincial speed-limiter mandates for all trucks set to be implemented in the two provinces starting Jan. 1, 2009.

Government transportation officials say that enforcement officers will be equipped with hand-held devices to access truck computer systems to check for a working speed limiter set at the proper maximum speed of 105 kilometers per hour or less. That equates to 65 mph.

Ritchie raises the issue of privacy and opposes the open access to a truck’s computer data.

“We strenuously object to Ministry inspectors viewing and possibly downloading that information for their own purposes,” Ritchie stated in the letter.

“We assert that data contained in an engine ECM is in fact the property of the owner of the vehicle, and should not be available to anyone else, including the Ministries, without permission or a warrant. Since the verification process is done electronically, no one but the inspector would be aware that a data download had occurred.”

Ritchie advises the transportation officials – director of carrier safety Peter Hurst in the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s enforcement branch, and Benoit Cayouette of the Quebec Ministry’s freight and motor carrier division – to check out a story published by Today’s Trucking titled “Pandora’s ECM.”

The story spells out a number of problems that would arise if enforcement officials are allowed to pry into otherwise protected data in a truck’s computer. Click here to read the story.

The privacy issue is just one of the many issues with speed limiters that owner-operator groups, including OBAC and the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, raised that were subsequently ignored by lawmakers calling the shots.

Government officials have consistently taken the side of the Ontario Trucking Association, which represents large motor carriers, since OTA’s lobbying campaign for a government mandate began in November 2005.

“In the ensuing period, all of OBAC’s concerns, expressed and documented in a number of briefs, studies, reports, and letters to both governments have been largely ignored by Ministry personnel and by legislators in both provinces,” Ritchie stated.

Significant findings by Transport Canada in a series of studies that didn’t exactly put speed limiters in a golden light were also chiefly ignored, she added.

“These studies outlined several downsides to the legislation, including some clearly outlined safety concerns, and they corroborated our views on a wide range of issues that OBAC and a significant number of other trucking associations and individuals have also raised,” Ritchie stated.

– By David Tanner, staff writer