Ontario trucker gave it his best shot in speed-limiter case

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 9/4/2012

After two separate court trials and three years of fighting, Canadian trucker Lee Ingratta says he’s ready to put the ordeal behind him.

“I like to say I gave it my best shot,” Ingratta said Tuesday from his shop in Gravenhurst, Ontario.

A judge ruled last week that Ingratta was in violation of Ontario’s speed-limiter law for “refusing” to allow an inspector to access his truck’s computer during a routine scalehouse stop in 2009.

Ontario, along with neighboring Quebec, requires trucks to be speed-limited in their computers to a maximum speed of 105 kilometers per hour, which is roughly 65 mph.

Ingratta based his defense on the theory that the devices used by provincial inspectors could damage a truck computer with a static electrical charge, a computer virus, or a “footprint” left by those devices. The trucker says he did not refuse the inspection but merely asked the inspector to sign a waiver to accept possible damages to the truck’s computer system.

“I had an expert witness come in, an authorized mechanic from Cummins, who said he repaired two trucks that were damaged by (Ontario Ministry of Transportation) inspectors,” Ingratta said.

A former computer shop owner, Ingratts truly believes the computer hookup can leave a “footprint” on a truck’s computer, which may not be found until months later. Proving actual damage caused by the inspection was difficult, he said, and that worked in the province’s favor.

“There’s no way anyone’s going to know until they have a real mechanic hook up to the computer and the mechanic sees the footprint,” Ingratta said.

Ingratta also presented what’s known in Canada as a “defense of necessity,” meaning he believed he had a valid reason for doing what he did – in his case, asking the inspector to sign a damage waiver.

“I have a 2001 Peterbilt,” he said. “I wanted these guys to sign a piece of paper accepting any damages.”

But in the end, the judge ruled in favor of the province.

Ingratta said he is disappointed in the outcome, not to mention being out $28,000. He said the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada and North American Truckers Guild helped raise some money for his expenses.

“I took it on; that’s the important thing,” he said. “It was my baby right from the start.”

As a small matter of consolation, the judge asked the prosecutors from the province if they would waive Ingratta’s initial $390 fine for violating the speed-limiter law. And they agreed.

A violation of the speed-limiter law in Ontario does not count any points against a driver’s Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration, or CVOR record.

Another trucker, OOIDA Member Gene Michaud of St. Catharines, Ontario, won a constitutional challenge against Ontario’s speed-limiter law earlier this year, but lawyers from the province filed an appeal.

In that case, Michaud says the law infringed on his civil rights by forcing him to drive 65 mph in jurisdictions outside Ontario that have posted limits of 70 mph or higher.

The traffic court judge sided with Michaud, saying Michaud’s ability to have full control of his vehicle was “impaired as opposed to improved” because of the speed limiter.

An appeal date is still pending in the Michaud case.

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