Speed-limiter cases show vulnerabilities in the law

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Tuesday, July 27, 2010

For the second time in a matter of weeks, an Ontario trucker has challenged and beaten a ticket issued under the province’s speed-limiter law.

The trucker in the latest case, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, told Land Line Magazine that an inspector with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) caused damage to his truck’s computer system during a speed-limiter inspection. Provincial law requires all heavy trucks, regardless of domicile, to have a working speed limiter set within the truck’s computer at or below 105 km/h, or 65 mph.

“My speed limiter was set,” the trucker told Land Line.

“(The officer) refused to sign a letter of accountability for his actions. He did damage my computer, and I ended up having to change it out. It took me a while to find a used one, but I did.”

Whether it was static electricity or something else that caused the problem, the trucker said it cost him $650 to buy the replacement component.

The trucker’s case never made it to the courtroom. The prosecutor withdrew the charge following a meeting with the trucker’s paralegal representative, Ritch J. Noel.

“I’ve heard, and I’ve dealt with a number of these, that there has been damage caused immediately subsequent to having these devices the MTO uses plugged in to the computer system on these trucks,” Noel told Land Line Now on Sirius XM. Noel himself is a former trucker with 25 years experience.

Noel said that during the inspection, his client had asked the officer to sign a waiver stating that MTO would accept liability for any potential damage done to the truck. The officer did not sign the waiver and proceeded with the inspection that resulted in a $315 fine for the trucker.

Noel said his defense strategy was to challenge the device itself and question officer training.

“How can one device unilaterally read all this stuff, being used multiple times per day – and more importantly, what are the training parameters for each officer?” Noel said he was prepared to ask. “With radar, they have to be trained and qualified and re-qualified.”

The waiver idea may sound familiar to readers. That’s precisely the strategy that trucker Lee Ingratta of Gravenhurst, Ontario, used to challenge a similar fine and charge he received.

Land Line reported that Ingratta asked MTO officers to accept responsibility during an inspection last year for potential damage to the computer system. That officer had also refused to sign the waiver and issued a fine for Ingratta’s supposed “refusal.”

But a provincial court judge ruled that Ingratta did not refuse access and tossed his case out of court. MTO is appealing the decision.

Noel says truckers can learn from the scenarios involving his client and Ingratta.

“I would certainly advise (truckers) that if the MTO requests them to do something, they comply dependent on the operational policy for whatever company they’re working for,” Noel told Land Line Now.

“But they should absolutely make mention that they’re opposed to them doing this for the reason that they’re concerned about potential electronic problems that might result of them plugging in here. At the very least, if they do that and they do go to court, there’s some record that they’re opposed to this happening.”

A third Canadian trucker fighting a speed-limiter infraction, Scott Mooney of Fergus, Ontario, is scheduled to return to provincial court Sept. 2 in Napanee. Mooney was one of the first truckers to be cited for a speed-limiter infraction when MTO began enforcing the law in June 2009.

Mooney, who led protest events prior to the law taking effect, says the law itself is flawed because it creates unsafe speed differentials on the highways and forces drivers to cope with dangerous situations.

– Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report
reed_black@landlinemag.com

 

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