Court says speed limiters dangerous to truck drivers, but Ontario doesn't care

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Good news and bad news on a long-running case backed by OOIDA that challenges the law in Ontario, Canada, that requires all heavy trucks to have speed limiters set at a maximum of 65 mph.

The good news is, a majority of the Ontario Court of Appeals – the highest court in the province – acknowledges and states very clearly that the law endangers the personal safety of truck drivers.

“The court found that Section 7 (of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) was violated and puts the truck driver in a dangerous situation,” attorney David Crocker stated during a conference call.

“The Court of Appeals found that the legislation created a danger to Michaud, our truck driver,” Crocker said, speaking of the late Gene Michaud, an OOIDA member from St. Catharines, Ontario, who challenged that the law violated his rights to personal safety.

Then came the catch.

“But,” Crocker continued, “from a societal perspective, the court said that it’s more important to slow trucks down than it is to protect the safety of the truck driver.”

To reach the conclusion, and to allow Ontario’s law to stand, the Court of Appeals majority decision cited a separate section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically Section 1, to say that a law can stand and be considered constitutional if it shows and justifies a broad societal interest.

“The judge (writing for the majority) found that despite the truck driver’s personal safety being threatened, it’s more important to have trucks limited to that speed,” Crocker further explained.

OOIDA has backed the case against mandatory speed limiters in Ontario since Michaud began fighting a citation he received for not having a speed limiter set at or below the prescribed maximum.

The appeal was heard back in March, and the judges’ panel took more than five months to rule.

Michaud’s challenge began in 2009, not long after the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario began enforcing legislation to cap the top road speed of trucks. As part of a routine inspection, Michaud’s truck was found to be limited at 68 mph, not at or below 65 mph. He believed 65 mph was arbitrary and purposely set his limiter at 68 mph, which was closer to – but still below – the regular flow of traffic on major Ontario highways and in the U.S. where he ran many of his miles.

In 2012, an Ontario traffic court judge tossed Michaud’s citation out of court and declared that the provincial law harmed his ability to operate safely.

The province appealed the traffic court’s decision, but Michaud, who was in poor health at that time, passed away before that appeal went to court. His wife, Barbara, with permission from the court and the opponents, was allowed to carry on the case on his behalf.

Their attorney, Crocker, said the recent Court of Appeals ruling is the first time that the court has ruled that a particular law is deemed dangerous to the security of a person under Section 7 of the Charter, but deemed socially responsible under Section 1 of the same Charter.

The ruling triggers a 60-day process in which the parties can file for permission to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

OOIDA leadership is currently evaluating the Association’s strategy.

The Association views the Canadian challenge as important not just north of the border, but in the U.S. as well.

Many Canadian trucks operate on U.S. highways, and the ones from Ontario and Quebec are speed-limited, creating speed differentials among vehicles on U.S. roads. In addition, U.S. trucks going into Ontario or Quebec are required to set their speed limiters – requiring a shop visit to adjust the computer settings – at or below 65 mph (measured in Canada as 105 kilometers per hour) or face fines and penalties in those provinces.

U.S. regulators continue to push toward a final rule stateside, and that process continues to move forward, however slowly. See related coverage on U.S. happenings on landlinemag.com.

Copyright © OOIDA

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