SPECIAL REPORT: Ontario lawmaker questions rationale behind speed limiters

| 12/10/2008

Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 – A provincial lawmaker in Ontario is questioning the government’s rationale behind making speed limiters mandatory as truckers continue to struggle in a downturned economy.

Gilles Bisson, a member of provincial parliament and a transportation critic for the New Democratic Party, asked Transportation Minister James Bradley to explain why the Liberal Party deems it necessary to push forward with a mandate.

“At the very time that truckers need our support, why is your government forcing them to spend $4.5 million for technology that won’t make our roads safer and will make it even harder for those truckers to compete against American competitors?” Bisson asked Bradley during a parliamentary question period Wednesday, Dec. 10, in Toronto.

Bradley answered by saying statistics exist that show “very clearly” that speed limiters would increase road safety.

Bradley’s next statement didn’t surprise Bisson or the owner-operator groups he was standing up for during the question period.

“The Ontario Trucking Association, which represents most of the truckers in the province of Ontario, was very enthusiastic about this being implemented,” Bradley told him.

The OTA began lobbying for government-mandated speed limiters in November 2005.

Transportation Minister Bradley introduced government legislation in March 2008, and it passed in June. Ontario officials then announced that speed limiters would be mandatory starting Jan. 1, 2009.

Bisson explained after the question period why his question and comments seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“Sometimes people put themselves in a box, and they don’t know how to get out again. They don’t want to back down,” Bisson told Land Line.

“I will just say that we tried real hard to get him not to do this. We believe speed limiters are very impractical.”

Bisson and other transportation critics, including Member of Provincial Parliament Frank Klees of the Progressive Conservative Party, say the issue of speed limiters is not about safety.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to make it unsafe because you will have two trucks trying to pass each other and they’re both limited to 105 (kilometers per hour),” Bisson told Land Line.

“The economic arguments on this are very strong and we would ask why, in a time of economic difficulty, would you impose these increased costs on independent operators?”

Owner-operator associations including the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada have high praise for the lawmakers who brought facts to the table as Bisson did Wednesday and how other members of the opposition parties did throughout the hearing process for the speed-limiter legislation.

“Mr. Bisson has been a great advocate for small business truckers. He asked difficult questions and exposed the bill for the bad piece of legislation that it is,” said Laura O’Neill, government affairs counsel for OOIDA.

“He comes at things from a business perspective and he understands how small business truckers and the people of Ontario will be affected by that mandate.”

O’Neill said Bradley’s answer to Bisson during the question period included safety statistics that don’t exist. She was also critical of the minister’s reluctance to acknowledge owner-operators.

“Minister Bradley’s response makes me doubt that he actually read the Transport Canada speed limiter studies. The minister seems to have a real lack of understanding about the speed limiter issue and about the trucking industry in Ontario.” O’Neill told Land Line. “For him to say that the OTA represents truckers is a show of ignorance.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer