SPECIAL REPORT: Ontario jumps on Jan. 1 speed limiter bandwagon

| 10/30/2008

Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008 – Transportation officials in Ontario said they will harmonize with Quebec and implement regulations for mandatory speed limiters on trucks starting Jan. 1, 2009.

“Staff from Ontario and Quebec have been working very closely to ensure a harmonized speed limiter program between our two provinces,” Ontario Ministry of Transportation Spokesman Bob Nichols confirmed toLand Line on Thursday, Oct. 30.

“Regulations have not yet been approved, but subject to approval, will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2009, as well. That would be followed by a six-month education period.”

Transportation officials in Quebec were the first to announce the Jan. 1 implementation date, which surprised many in the trucking industry, including members of U.S.-based OOIDA and the Owner Operators Business Association of Canada.

Eleven months ago, a lawmaker in Quebec, Tony Tomassi, stated on the record that Quebec would wait for the rest of Canada to be on board before implementing a speed-limiter regulation.

“The affirmation, and I think it is an important element in the legislation ... the measure won’t apply until all other Canadian provinces follow the position of Quebec,” Tomassi stated during a public hearing held by transportation officials Nov. 30, 2007.

Several provinces are indifferent or opposed to the idea of government-mandated speed limiters. The western province of Alberta is not interested in drafting legislation, but the eastern province of Nova Scotia appears to be on the verge of following Ontario and Quebec.

Truckers opposed to government-mandated speed limiters say that the large motor carriers are driving the legislation forward as a matter of competitiveness and driver retention. A number of truckers, especially owner-operators, prefer not to drive for carriers that electronically govern the road speed of their fleets at or below posted speed limits.

OOIDA and OBAC officials say the provinces should enforce the current speed laws without moving to an electronic method. Trucks forced to go slower than the speed of traffic would create unsafe vehicle interactions on the highways, Association officials contend.

Then there’s the economic angle.

As the economy in the U.S. suffers, and Ontario faces its first economic downturn in a number of years, a jurisdictional mandate for speed limiters would create an impediment to trade and commerce, OOIDA officials said.

OOIDA officials are committed to challenging the regulations at the Canadian federal level. They hope to file an official “notice of intent” to challenge the regulations on grounds that interprovincial and cross-border trade laws are being violated.

OOIDA officials said Thursday that they can’t understand why Ontario would be bringing a regulation forward in times of economic slowdown.

– By David Tanner, staff writer