Ontario court hears trucker's challenge of speed-limiter law

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 1/24/2012

Owner-operator Gene Michaud’s constitutional challenge of the Ontario, Canada, law that requires heavy trucks to be equipped with speed limiters is now in the hands of a judge. Michaud’s attorney David Crocker of Toronto presented oral arguments to the Ontario Court of Justice over a two-day period ending Monday, Jan. 23.

“We argued that the speed-limiter legislation, that being the amendment to the Highway Traffic Act … violated Gene Michaud’s rights under Sec. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to have his security interest protected,” Crocker told Land Line on Tuesday following the proceedings in Welland, Ontario.

“We argued that speed limiters and the speed-limiter legislation put him at risk because it created a variance between his speed and the flow of traffic,” Crocker said. “That variance was itself dangerous, and we had expert opinions to support that.”

Expert opinions included an affidavit from Julie Cirillo, retired assistant administrator for the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. She stated in the document that speed limiters prevent heavy trucks from operating within the flow of traffic and would, therefore, increase the likelihood of accidents.

Michaud, an OOIDA member from St. Catharines, Ontario, received a citation from a provincial truck inspector on June 19, 2009, five months after the provincial speed-limiter law took effect. The inspector found Michaud’s limiter to be working, but it was at 68 mph. Michaud testified that he believes having his truck restricted to 65 mph is too slow and too dangerous for operating on U.S. highways where he routinely runs.

Michaud’s argument against the province also includes a rebuttal of claims that speed limiters reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“We argued that even if there was some minor emissions savings which resulted from the speed-limiter legislation, it was so small as to be irrelevant,” Crocker said.

The province, represented by attorney Michael Dunn of the Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario, also presented arguments on Monday. The province stands by its initial justification for the law that limiting the speed of the commercial vehicles improves safety and reduces harmful emissions.

After arguments closed, Justice of the Peace Brett A. Kelly announced that he will reveal his decision on June 6.

Separate case pending in court
Meanwhile, Crocker is defending another trucker involved in a separate but important case against the provincial speed-limiter law.

OOIDA Member Lee Ingratta of Gravenhurst, Ontario, received a citation in July 2009 after “refusing” to allow an inspector to check his truck computer for a working speed limiter.

Ingratta says he did not refuse access but merely asked the inspector to sign a waiver to accept responsibility for damages caused by the computer hookup. Ingratta, a former computer technician, says he doesn’t trust the devices or the process used by inspectors to check for speed limiters.

Ingratta won his initial case in traffic court when a judge sided with him. The province filed an appeal and won, but the judge in the case ordered a new trial. That trial begins in March.

Copyright © OOIDA