SPECIAL REPORT: Ontario Parliament considers speed limiter bill

| 6/2/2006

A request to require speed limiters for all trucks doing business in Ontario is one step closer to becoming law, following the introduction of a bill to the provincial legislature.

Member of Provincial Parliament Laurie Scott introduced the bill Thursday, June 1. It is basically a carbon copy of the Ontario Trucking Association's suggestion that all truck computers be set to govern maximum speeds at 105 kilometers per hour, which is about 65 mph.

The proposal would require speed limiting on all heavy trucks operating in Ontario that have ECMs, which became standard in 1995. A plan for enforcement would have to be worked out.

The Ontario Legislative Assembly accepted Scott's bill, and assigned it to the Legislature's Standing Committee of Finance and Economic Affairs. Scott is a member of the Progressive Conservative party.

The committee will make a recommendation back to the full legislature, which will then cast a lawmaking vote. Unlike most state legislatures in the U.S., the Ontario legislature has only one chamber. So once a bill comes out of committee, it is only one vote away from final approval.

A private member's bill - which is what the speed limiter proposal is - differs from a regular parliamentary bill because of its origin. In Canada, the majority of bills are introduced by department ministers who are elected members of Parliament appointed to cabinet posts such as Minister of Transportation.

Private member bills are introduced by members of parliament who are not department ministers. They are known as "back-benchers" and they can be from any of Canada's three major political parties.

Ontario - Canada's most-traveled and most-populated province with several border crossings with the U.S. - is the first province to take up the speed limiter issue in its legislature.

The OTA, which represents the province's large motor carriers, has been officially promoting mandatory speed limiters since November 2005.

Other provinces may follow suit, if the OTA and the Canadian Trucking Alliance have anything to say about it.

OTA President David Bradley is also the CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents all eight provincial motor-carrier associations. All eight associations are on board to push for mandatory speed limiters in their jurisdictions, according to press releases issued this spring.

Mandatory speed limiters have both support and opposition from provincial, national and international interests.

Opponents to a government mandate include the Owner-Operators' Business Association of Canada and the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Both groups cite studies done on the dangers of widening speed differentials between four-wheelers and heavy trucks.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said the speed limiter proposal is seriously flawed.

"While those flaws are blatantly obvious to most truck drivers, unfortunately, lawmakers in Ontario lack that vision," Spencer told Land Line. "They need to be told this is a bad idea, and why, from the people who really know - truck drivers."

OOIDA issued a Call to Action for its Canadian members to contact their elected representatives and voice their opinion on the speed limiter issue. Click here to read that Call to Action and for contact information to provide comments.

Support for speed limiters is coming from Pollution Probe, Canada Safety Council and the Canadian Automobile Association of Ontario.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario was scheduled to have released a briefing on mandatory speed limiters in January, but hadn't followed through.

Since then, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has shuffled his cabinet members. Among those shifted to new positions was former Ontario Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar, who became minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship on May 23.

In his place, McGuinty appointed Donna Cansfield to head the transportation ministry.

Cansfield, the former minister of energy, has not publicly stated her position on mandatory speed limiters for trucks.

- By David Tanner, staff writer