Owner-ops question Ontario’s ability to enforce speed limiters

| 12/22/2008

In the eleventh hour before speed limiters are to become mandatory on all heavy trucks in Ontario, owner-operator associations on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border are questioning whether the Ministry of Transportation is equipped to handle enforcement.

Officials with the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada continue to question why Transportation Minister James Bradley is rushing to implement the regulation on Jan. 1, 2009, while current enforcement programs for commercial vehicles lack resources.

As of Jan. 1, all heavy trucks traveling Ontario highways, regardless of where the trucks are from, will be required to have a working speed limiter activated with a maximum road speed of 105 kilometers per hour, or about 65 mph. The province will begin enforcement with a six-month educational period before penalties and fines begin.

OBAC Executive Director Joanne Ritchie points out that the 2008 Auditor General’s Report was less than favorable in Ontario. The report shows that the number of roadside inspections has decreased 34 percent in the province since 2003 and that only three out of every 1,000 commercial vehicles are subject to rigorous inspections.

“How can Minister Bradley be prepared to divert obviously scarce enforcement resources to verifying speed-limiter settings when the Auditor General can point to more than 20,000 operators who were involved in collisions – and who knows how many more who haven’t hit the radar screen in some way – running around without (Commercial Vehicle Operator's Registration), with no way for the Ministry to track them?” Ritchie asked in a statement issued Sunday, Dec. 21.

“This report demonstrates Ontario’s Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Program is a mess; the Ministry has a badly skewed set of priorities. Enforcement is down because they lack resources, yet they’re prepared to add an enforcement initiative with no proven safety benefit to already overburdened roadside inspectors? Unbelievable.”

Click here to read more statements from Ritchie.

On Friday, Dec. 19, OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston sent a letter urging Minister Bradley to “postpone indefinitely the implementation of regulations” stemming from the speed-limiter law, on grounds that it will hinder trade and hurt small-business truckers.

“In addition to the well-documented safety concerns, drivers will simply choose not to take on the burdensome out-of-pocket costs associated with ECM adjustments, additional equipment, maintenance, or penalties resulting from these onerous regulations,” Johnston stated.

Click here to read Johnston’s letter in its entirety.

– By David Tanner, staff writer