After intense lobbying by the Ontario Trucking Association over the last two years, the provincial government has passed a bill requiring speed limiters on trucks -- no matter their origin.

Bill 41, an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, mandates the use of speed limiters on heavy trucks to cap speeds at 105 kilometers per hour (about 65.2 mph). According to a government press release, the regulation could be implemented as early as this fall, followed by a six- to 12-month "education period."

Speed limiters will be mandatory for all trucks manufactured after 1995 with an electronic engine, which effectively includes every on-highway truck.

"Speed limiters slow down trucks, help keep our roads safe and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said provincial Transportation Minister Jim Bradley.

"The mandatory activation of speed limiters is an effective way for the trucking industry to further contribute to safer highways, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said OTA president David Bradley. "The fuel savings from speed limiters will also help to moderate the increases in operating costs from escalating diesel fuel prices."

Opposition to the bill was substantial, coming from many small-fleet operators and many more drivers and owner-operators, organized mainly by the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada, and the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA contended it would create dangerous speed differentials between cars and trucks on Ontario highways. Members of the Conservative and New Democrat opposition demanded that the government wait for the results of a Transport Canada study on speed limiters, but the Liberal Party majority passed the Bill without amendments.

"It's a sad commentary on Ontario's commitment to road safety and the environment. This Bill does nothing to improve either," says OBAC's Joanne Ritchie. "While it might curry favor with a public that's demanding safer roads and cleaner air, it just sucks resources out of the system and turns a blind eye to the real problems - speeding, aggressive drivers, and gas-guzzling personal vehicles."

OOIDA government affairs counsel, Laura O'Neill, said it's a bad decision for U.S. truckers who do business in Ontario. OOIDA is considering its options for fighting implementation of the regulation.

From the outset, OBAC's Ritchie notes, Ontario seemed to have no intention of carefully considering the issue and reviewing the facts; they rammed the "OTA Bill" through without even waiting for Transport Canada to complete a set of comprehensive studies. "And the sham of "public hearings" makes me angry; welcome to democracy -- open to everyone in the same way as the Ritz Hotel," she said.