Trucker verdict upheld in Court of Appeal

A speeding transport truck.
A speeding transport truck. Stock photo by Getty Images.

Honk if your speed limiter is set too high.

Fresh out of the Court of Appeal in Ontario is a case about a late trucker, who contravened the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario by setting his speed limiter too high. In R v. Michaud, the court upheld the section of the act that states a speed limiter on a truck has to be set to 105 km/h. The court found Gene Michaud broke the law by setting his limit too high.

Michaud’s truck had been inspected by a Ministry of Transportation officer, who found Michaud’s truck speed limiter was set to 109.4 km/h and not 105 km/h as was required under s. 68.1(1) of the HTA and s.14(1) of the equipment regulation.

Michaud fought the charge at traffic court, and initially the judge sided with him. The judge threw out his citation on the basis the provincial law infringed on Michaud’s s. 7 Charter of Rights and Freedoms  — security of the person.

Michaud claimed setting his speed limiter to the top speed set out by the HTA would have put him in personal danger, because it would prevent him from keeping pace with traffic.

Consequently, the trial judge, after accepting some expert testimony and crediting Michaud as an “experienced professional” giving testimony, concluded the HTA legislation regarding speed limiters did infringe on Michaud’s s.7 Charter rights.

However, the Crown appealed and the Ontario Court of Justice overturned the trial court’s decision and upheld the ticket Michaud was issued by the MTO officer. The court reviewed the old evidence and considered new evidence by the Crown, in the form of a report on motor carrier safety. The study established a link between carrier crash rates and speed limiter use. The judge gave credence to the report as a reason in overturning the trial judge’s decision.

Although Michaud passed away, his widow and lawyer decided to take the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which upheld the lower court ruling.

The appeals court looked at two issues brought up by David Crocker, Michaud’s lawyer. The first one considered jurisdiction. Crocker claimed the provincial court didn’t have authority to hear the case, but Justice Peter Lauwers dismissed this claim.

It was the second issue that went to the heart of the case. It looked at whether the HTA violated Michaud’s s. 7 right to personal security of the person.

The appeals court found that while Michaud’s s. 7 rights were indeed violated by the section of the HTA, that violation is justified by s. 1 of the Charter, which imposes “reasonable limits” on the freedoms and rights in the Charter.

In other words, Charter rights are not absolute. They have to be balanced with other competing laws and rights, in this case, the public’s right to safety. As the court found there were great security concerns with setting the speed limiter too high, Michaud’s security rights were trumped by public safety concerns.

So heads up to all the Ontario trucker’s out there — set your speed limiter to the correct legal limit or you may find yourself getting a ticket in the future.

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