Ontario appeals trucker's case against speed limiters

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ontario trucker Lee Ingratta is nearly two years removed from beating the province’s speed-limiter law in court, but his ordeal is not over yet.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario’s appeal is scheduled to be heard July 4 in St. Catherines.

Ingratta, a one-truck owner from Gravenhurst, made headlines for the homemade waiver he carried in his truck that asked commercial enforcement to accept responsibility for any damage caused during an inspection of the truck’s computer system.

At a scale-house stop in July 2009, an inspector wanted to check Ingratta’s speed-limiter setting as part of the law to cap truck speeds below 65 mph. When Ingratta produced the waiver, the officer refused to sign it and issued the trucker a ticket and fine for not having the proper speed setting.

Provincial law requires all heavy trucks to set the speed limiter at no more than 105 kilometers per hour, or 65 mph. A first offense for not having the limiter set carries a $390 fine in Ontario.

OOIDA and others oppose speed limiters because studies show the safest roads are the ones with uniform speeds. Most major highways in North America have an average traffic flow at or above 70 mph. Speed-limited trucks cause for more interactions and maneuvering among vehicle classes. Merging is also a problem.

Ingratta’s strategy for beating the ticket worked. A provincial judge tossed the case out of court on June 4, 2010. But, as expected, the province filed an appeal a short time later. The original appeal date was set for May of this year, but the parties agreed to move it to July 4.

“They’re basically saying the judge erred in his judgment and this is why they’re appealing me,” Ingratta told Land Line on Tuesday, May 31.

“The appeal states that they want the appeal board to either find me guilty and/or order a new trial. But if they order a new trial, which I would be fine with, they’ve got to pay the shot. I’ve already been tried in a court of law and been found innocent, so for them to pull me back into court and try me again, now they’ve got to pay for it.”

Ingratta explains his rationale for carrying a waiver in his truck. Prior to his trucking career, he owned a computer-repair business. He says he does not trust anyone hooking up a portable device to his truck’s brain center at roadside. Too many things can go wrong.

“They don’t have any business touching our computers and causing damage,” he said.

When he learned his case was being appealed, Ingratta hired an attorney, David Crocker of Toronto. And the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada established a defense fund to get him through the appeal. Ingratta is a member of OBAC as well as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in the U.S. He says about three-quarters of his trucking miles are stateside.

“I’m not just doing this for me,” Ingratta said. “I’m doing this for myself, the other truck drivers, and doing this for truckers in the States. From what I hear, people are interested in my case because the U.S. is talking about doing the same damn thing with speed limiters.”

Ingratta hopes his challenge will set a precedent.

“If I can beat this thing one more time, there’s going to be a precedent set. And once that precedent is set, that’s going to be a benefit to all drivers out there.”

See related stories:
Creative trucker beats speed-limiter ticket in Canada
Ontario trucker Ingratta goes back to court in speed limiter case
Speed-limiter cases show vulnerabilities in the law

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