An Ontario trial judge recently tossed out a ticket under the province's speed limiter legislation, ruling that speed limiters are unsafe and violate a truck driver's right to personal safety. However, advocates for the devices say the ruling does not affect Ontario's speed limiter law.
The case comes as the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA works on a proposal to require speed limiters in tractors.
The case involved owner-operator Gene Michaud from St. Catharines, Ontario. With funding support from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, he filed a constitutional challenge last year against the province over the law that requires heavy trucks 1995 and newer to have a working speed limiter set no higher than 105 kilometers per hour, or 65 mph. The court ruled in his favor, with Judge Brett A. Kelly also ruling that the speed limiter law violates the principles of fundamental justice because it does not make the roads safer as the province claimed but instead creates more danger.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston said the association took on the case because the precedent is important to owner-operators on both sides of the border.
"This case will impact our Canadian members and also our U.S. members, both those who travel in Canada and those who may be subject to similar types of regulations in the U.S.," Johnston says. "The real motivation of big-business proponents of speed limiter mandates is to drive up costs for small-business truckers and hurt their ability to compete."
Michaud testified that the speed-limiter law violated his right to security as a person under Canadian law because his vehicle speed was capped below the flow of traffic in many jurisdictions. He recalled numerous situations in which he felt "bound and unsafe."
Other testimony presented also included research showing that uniform speeds are safer than when vehicles travel at different speeds. A forced speed differential, therefore, creates increased danger of collisions.
The Ontario Trucking Association released a statement saying that the ruling "does not change the enforcement of the Highway Traffic Act law whatsoever." Contrary to some reports, the lower court ruling isn't binding and the law hasn't been struck down; nor does it require any amendments to the HTA legislation.
"People challenge traffic tickets every day and sometimes they win," says OTA President David Bradley says. "It means nothing; the law stands."
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