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Trucker vs Speed Limiter Rule: The Rematch

TORONTO -- The Ontario government is refusing to give up on a speed limiter case it lost last year.

Last June, owner-op Lee Ingratta became the first known trucker in Ontario to beat a charge under Ontario's mandatory speed limiter legislation.

But the Ministry of Transport has decided not to take it lying down and has filed an appeal.

Ingratta tells todaystrucking.com that he received a letter shortly after he won the case that the MTO intended to ask the Appeals Board to overrule the decision or order a new trial.

Seven months later, Ingratta got a 60-page document with all the info MTO submitted to the Court Of Appeals. He expects he'll soon be getting a summons to reappear in court.

"I guess I'm going back to court," he says. "This is the government. They can do whatever they want."  

Lee Fought the Law and the Law wants another go

He says he thinks MTO is being aggressive with him because his case sets a precedent that makes it easier for other truckers to defeat the law.

As we reported last summer (see Trucker Beats Speed Limiter Rap, Aug 2010 for more), Ingratta convinced a traffic court judge to toss out a ticket for refusing a speed limiter check, which is considered a compliance violation.

In court, Ingratta insisted that he did not refuse the MTO officer's request to plug in an electronic device that confirms engine speed settings -- "I told him he could hook it up as many times as he wanted to" -- but first, the officer would have sign a waiver that the MTO accepted liability if the device damaged the engine's computer.

A computer expert, Ingratta told the judge that the so-called Ez-Tap devices are capable of transmitting viruses and have been known to damage the engine's ECM in rare instances.

With barely a rebuttal from the MTO inspector who appeared in court, the judge agreed with the trucker, ruling that Ingratta was in the right to present the waiver and, as a result, he did not refuse a speed limiter check.

"It's my truck. It's my company. The computer is $5,000 to replace and basically, the judge agreed that it's not fair that I should be responsible if something happens," Ingratta recalls.

Presumably, the MTO will be better prepared this time around, but Ingratta says he's confident he'll come away with the same result.

He says the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada (OBAC) has started a Speed Limier Defense Fund, which would assist him with defense. And he's appealing for advice from anyone else in the trucking industry who has encountered similar problems with the MTO policy or who has beaten such a charge.

"I'm just putting the word out to anybody that if there's anyway they can help me, whether they're drivers or fleet managers or engine people I would really appreciate it," says Ingratta.

There have been a handful of speed limiter cases that have been dismissed by lower courts.

Anecdotally, we've heard of other horror stories at the scales, including one truck from B.C. that had to get towed-out away, allegedly because of a damaged engine after a speed limiter check.

As Today's Trucking first revealed, there's other lingering questions -- like whether the devices alone can effectively detect if trucks with governors are truly limited to 105 km/h.

Mark Reynolds of OTT Legal Services, says he's had several calls from drivers and carriers about speed limiter violations.

Many just want to get out of a ticket, sure, but his firm has handled a few legitimate grievances. A couple, he says, have been dismissed. (Although the MTO is apparently appealing at least one of them as well).

"A number of times I've had calls from people who say they have a speed limiter and it's working properly, but for some reason the MTO's device says (it isn't)," says Reynolds, a former MTO inspector.

He agrees there are plenty of loopholes in the speed limiter enforcement policy, mainly involving the functionality of devices and whether the MTO uses them in proper accordance with the manual. "MTO," he adds, "is notorious for not doing such things."

However, drivers may find that challenging the rule on these grounds on their own could be difficult without some technical expertise.

Because of his computer background, Ingratta might be a special case.

"This guy who seems to be a computer buff might have better chance."

Ingratta certainly hopes a second judge agrees.

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It's just like every other MTO iisue. The problem remains the same . We are a highly visable, over regulated, esaly fined industry. We all want safe equipment on the road but it isn't a level playing field. When are we going to see safe cars on the rosd. A car traveling at 135km/hr is just as likly to cause an accident. The MTO justifies all this by saying that a truck accident is uassally far more catastrofic but how many lives have to be lost before the minisrty & government wake up to the fact that all accidents have the potential to be catasrofic and do something. It's not the big trucks that I am afraid of.

i was just wondering if someone can give me some needed help i just recieved a fine for not allowing a mto office to plug in without his consent on a waiver i asked him to sign, i wish to contest this, any help will be gratefull, tks ... john w. montgomery

Mr. montgomery, email me at marco@newcom.ca and I can point you in the right direction.