Speed limiters: What “could” or “would” happen versus what “did” happen

Since coming out in favor of speed limiters I’ve been overwhelmed by calls and e-mails from drivers and owner/operators with dire warnings about what “could” or “would” happen should such legislation be passed in Ontario. I thought I would respond by looking at what “did” happen. After all, although the debate about speed limiters is a hot one in Canada, it’s old news in other parts of the world. And the experiences in those countries has much to show us, for those willing to keep an open mind anyway.
Australia is the first country I want to consider. Speed limiters have been the law for both trucks and buses there since 1990 and they’re set at 100 km/h.
Those opposed to speed limiters in Ontario say the speed differential between heavy trucks and cars they force will cause accidents. Have the Aussies, after almost 20 years of speed limiters found that to be true? Here’s what Chris Brooks, senior adviser, road safety, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told us:
“There is no good evidence that a 10 km/h differential between light vehicle and truck speed limits creates a safety problem. If there is any such problem at all, it is small compared to the safety benefits of running trucks at 100 km/h rather than 110 km/h.”
Just as interesting was what Australia’s National Road Transport Commission found when it looked into what motivates drivers to speed. It found that speed choice for truck drivers is largely depended on the prevailing weather, traffic density, police presence and road conditions. While truck drivers are concerned about speed limit differentials between heavy vehicles and the prevailing speeds of other traffic, they consciously trade off speed and risks of prosecution and crashing; regarding fines as a cost of doing business.
In other words, in the real world, the benefits of getting home early or delivering on time too often trump the risks associated with driving too fast.
Speed limiters place everyone on a level playing field and shippers and carriers can’t push drivers to drive too fast to meet a schedule.’
Another concern for the anti-speed limiting lobby is that speed limiting trucks will lead to more overtaking, and hence more serious crashes, as motorists get fed up with being stuck behind lumbering behemoths, particularly on country and regional roads. I find that argument particularly hard to grasp considering the speed limit on country roads is 80 km/h and 90 or 100 km/h on regional roads, both considerably below the proposed speed limiter setting of 105 km/h.
But let’s look at the Australian experience. Have almost two decades of speed limiters (set at 100 km/h) led to carnage in the Outback? Again, we asked Chris Brooks, senior adviser, road safety, Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Here’s what he told us:
“In fact, overtaking-related crashes on rural roads are surprisingly uncommon…It may be that on two-lane roads with a general speed limit of 110 km/h, the presence of speed-limited trucks tends to constrain light vehicle speeds. If so, there may well be a substantial net safety benefit that would be lost if trucks were permitted to travel faster.”
In other words, rather than causing more accidents, speed limited trucks are causing other traffic to slow down and thus reducing the likelihood of accidents.
There are still some in Australia who don’t want speed limiters, of course. But I’ve specifically chosen to use Brooks’ comments because he was not speaking for the Australian Trucking Association, which like the Ontario Trucking Association here, supported speed limiters. He is speaking for the government, which after almost 20 years of speed limiters would be under pressure to change the legislation if there was strong evidence it was leading to more accidents.
The fact there is ongoing support for speed limiters speaks for itself.
In my next blog, I’ll look at the impact of speed limiter legislation in Europe.

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With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.

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  • In order for there to be a realistic comparison between any country that enforced speed limiters and one that is considering it, all factors must be considered. Other factors such as: geography-terrain, international trade (Australia doesn’t trade internationally with trucks… they are an Island!), Drivers pay structure (North America pays by mile Europe pays by hour), economic environment (NAFTA), political environment as well as a host of other factors.
    If the OTA pushes for speed limiters they are moving towards the European model which means the entire trucking industry will sooner or later be moving towards a hourly not mileage pay structure. This means a battle between truck drivers and trucking companies that will last a decade. The trucking industry would be heading for a meltdown of meltdowns. Human resources drive trucks, without factoring their input is absurd.
    The real question is: why is OTA pushing it? Here is MY theory. Smaller non-speed limited companies (who, buy the way, dominate the Canadian Trucking Industry by volume)attract drivers who wish to manage fuel consumption through independent methods such as inertia rather than ded reckoning (sailing term) or “buy the book” method and larger companies (who are suffering from lack of human resources) want to level the playing field by lumping everyone together. This is NOT a green house gas issue! Anyone who thinks about it as a “green issue” has their own narrow agenda! It is a human resource and ultimately a financial issue. Control the drivers choices and you control the human resources available. Companies who currently electronically limit speed would like nothing more than have everyone do it, so drivers choice of employment is narrowed by options. Legislate your competitors advantage away is what is meant by “leveling the playing field”.
    Put an inertia driver next to a speed limited driver in the hills and fuel consumption isn’t even close (especially in the mountains) Inertia wins every time. Computer generate the model… see for yourself. Eliminate the option of speed manipulation and you eliminate the real fuel savers! Someone’s NOT THINKING!
    If speed was the real issue the OPP should be penalized! Ramp up their radars… its not like the radar can’t catch a 60 foot vehicle is it? Its the 125km four wheelers that are zipping past so fast the truck readings are skewed and officers feel guilty of discrimination. How about slowing down the four wheelers TO SPEED LIMIT???? …now there is a GHG topic!
    Robert D. Scheper

  • Does the OTA really think that they can set the standard for North America? Does Mr. Bradley REALLY think that Ontario will lead the transportation industry in Canada AND the US into profits beyond our wildest dreams with this legislation? Apparently, the OTA thinks the Windsor to Quebec border is the only road the trucks travel on and the ALL trucks travel at 125 kph at ALL times. How else can one come up with the GHG “savings” of 140 kilotonnes per truck. Where is the science to back up that figure? What is the percentage of trucks running this “125 kph”? 140 kilotonnes per truck (671,000 trucks in Canada equals 94,000,000 kilotonnes savings, WOW) How can a speed limiter save me 10,400 liters from 35,000 liters usage (for my truck)? That is an increase from 7.5 to almost 10 mpg!!!! Wow, I should have turned on my speed limiter years ago! According to my ecm my average speed is 64 mph at 49% of the time. So by the OTA fuel saving calculator of just turning on my governor, I would save 30% on my fuel bill. Just think, 22 years behind the wheel and all I had to do was be governed. Although the trucks that are already governed, I not sure how they fit into the calculation. And yes, Robert D. Scheper, you are very correct. I always used the terrain to aid in my efficiency. Paying for your own fuel for your own company will control your right foot. Sometimes it really seems the OTA has a very small scope for transportation, the 401. Pity those that must travel the Trans Can Tu-Laner. Why not just let those that want it to have it. Why shove this down everyones throat. Is it protectionism, as far as Ontario trucks are concerned, to keep “Others” out of Ontario? This Eco theory is very hard to swallow. Cows give off 100 million tonnes GHG per year globally (1989 census, Newscientist study).
    So now that the new age truck driver is limited in his HOS(not disagreeing with this), waiting times on duty, hours off duty increased, hours away from home increased, needs a APU to have some comfort, reduced rest areas and legal areas for rest, governed truck speed even where legal, I wonder? Is there a maximum allowable wage that a truck driver can make? It seems with all the regs put into place lately that someone somewhere has a set amount in mind.
    Stan Tibben

  • I haven’t yet heard of a good solid reason why speed limiters are a hazard. I am not sure how many trucks have limiters ( maybe someone like Ray Haight or Mr. Bradley may know the figures ) but it must be around half of all the trucks on the road already. Whatever the number there are so many out there that if the supposed hazards were true we would be seeing these problems happening already………… before any official mandating of this equipment. Not only that but we already have huge differentials in speeds with lightly loaded trailers running up hills at over 100 kph with heavies scarcely able to crest them at 80 kph. We don’t have zillions of accidents because of that.
    I’ve also driven around the U.S.with a limiter set at 105 kph, in some cases where there were 70 mph speed limits, without ever feeling that someone was going to run into me………… even when on occasion some great big Pete all lit up has whistled past me at probably 130 kph. And don’t think I am making light of rear-ender accidents and that I am not aware of what being rear-ended is like having been through that unfortunate experience in 1976 on the 401 heading out Milton way from Toronto. My injectors were freezing up on a very, very cold day but in brilliant sunshine when I was travelling slowly with my fourways on to reach Highway 25 to find some alcohol. A Quebec broker fell asleep at the wheel and rammed me from behind destroying his tractor and my trailer and causing me to make a dent with my head in the roof of the daycab I was driving. They said at the time that if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt I would likely have been punched through my windshield and maybe even run over by my own truck. In fact I still get a small WCB pension from that episode.
    And the differences the extra speed makes in getting somewhere is so small. What was that figure for Toronto to Windsor? 15 minutes travelling at 120 kph instead of 105 kph or something similar. The only reason I can see for not having limiters is when the power to weight ratio of your rig is so bad that you always have to speed up to make a run at a hill……… …..but that was the bad old days when I was driving in the 70s. Nowadays with 500 hp engines or even 650 hp you can run Montreal for instance without dropping a gear.
    Maybe I am just getting old but the more I think about it the more I feel that some drivers just want to drive fast and don’t like being told they are going to have a limiter set up to prevent them from doing so. And it’s no good telling them they are going to save fuel because who are driving most of the big, fancy, square rigs instead of the more aerodynamic and more fuel efficient alternatives…………………yeah in many ( most?) cases it is the same guys who want to drive fast.

  • i’m not at all opposed to limiting truck speeds. i’v been limited to 105 kph on cruise and 110 kph on the floor for years, which i think is very reasonable.
    recently my company has limited me to 100kph max, for fuel economy. which means i need to drive at 95 kph cruise speed, to leave some cusion for passing. most of my trips are 1600 plus km, this reduction in max cruise speed is causing me to lose more than 100 km per day. as i am paid per mile, essentially i’m paying to put fuel in the companies truck.
    i talk to alot of drivers from europe, where they are limited to 90 kph, but it’s illegal for companies to pay drivers by distance there, they are all paid salary or hourly.
    with all the issues of hours of service, safety and fuel economy these days, the only thing that makes sense is to pay drivers a salary or hourly rate, then all these issues would vertually vanish. no speed limiters or extra enforcment needed.

  • If you agree so strongly on lowering the speed limit to help reduce fuel consumption and make the roads safer, then surely you will be a strong advocate to lower and regulate the speed on cars and suv and pickups also. You the man ???????????

  • As a owner opperator and a professional driver i oppose the speed limiters ,This goverment as in effect place another reason why very soon a larger driver shortage shall appear.
    As it is now older drivers have said enough is enough and are leaving the trade yes i said trade we are professionals same as your plumber or millwright ,
    The idea of the speed limiter saving fuel is just a means of killing the owner opperator any fuel is paid out of our earnings and any savings is our profit so if i wnat my profits to go up in smoke it is not the goverments problem but mine .
    I can not see how you are going to control all trucks coming into ontario and make sure they are all limited , with thousnads of trucks crossing in windsor and sarnia every day the back ups would be miles long or is it just we will enforce it if we catch you
    The other thing is do i get to claim the fee to the dealer and my lost time to have to change my computer as a tax deduction its not just the fee but my time and fuel to travel to a dealer to have this done (more log book work on duty not driving or is that not earning)

  • Well, of course we have only been discussing whether we should have speed limiters or not but if we are to have them there are other things to contemplate. For instance if a driver has his tractor set up to run in top gear at 120 kph……………transmission………….rearend etc…. and then has to run at 105 kph he is either going to have to run one gear down all the time down or he is going to need his rearend changed etc.. In other words there is a lot more involved than many people realize. It is not just a decision whether to have speed limiters or not.

  • Once again suits from southern Ontario, deciding whats best for everybody. Thanks A*******, obviously nobody down there has been farther north then the Muskokas.
    Go * Yourselves
    Terry Constable
    Northern Ontario

  • Oh well, I quit. I’m done.Good luck with all the bull****. I’m so sick of it all. It’s all about the four wheelers. Next we won’t be allowed out of the granny lane. We are treated like vermin. We will eventually have to refuse to drive period until we are treated like equal citizens. It’s time to stop. If they are actually going to enforce this crap we have to demand hourly pay in the range of $25 per hour plus full benifets and a real pension plan. If the a******* at the OTA dont like it they can go to hell. They have never done any good for anyone but the big companies, ie: Kriska, Challenger and other s******** like that. All about giving drivers no choices. I’m going to drive local now until we get equal rights or we grow up and stand up for our rights as individuals. Enough is enough, I quit.

  • Lou I supose you have to doing this to keep your job because you don’t have what it takes to do what
    we do.
    My next question is what are your qualifications?
    You seem to have an opinion so back it up.
    Tell us why you believe this other than you know where your pay check comes from.
    Please don’t use Austrailia. Do you know what a stupid comparison that is?
    Here is mine I got my chaufers lic. 37 years ago. I have never had a speeding ticket in a truck.
    You probably backed theHORS regulations also. How many people has that killed?
    Why don’t you guys admit this is all about the bottom line for a few very large companys.
    You are about to make every event a braking event. Not real smart.
    You are about to limit the manoverabilty of a large vehicle. Not real smart.
    I wonder how many people are dead because just when the driver got it back under control
    the power quit.
    Come on guys use some common sense.
    Now what is the real problem.
    1 Unrealistic dispatcth times
    2 Companies that push their drivers
    3 satilite monitors that keep telling drivers to keep going when they know they shouldn’t
    4 dispatch should be held accountable
    5 I really like this one it’s on time or its free Not much pressure.
    6 Your training programs are a joke The School Of Fill the Seat.
    7 Take Challanger off the pedistal Trust me they are not that good.
    it is all window dressing.
    There are more but you get the idea.
    You people want to realize that every driver that dies because you have no idea what you are doing
    is on you.
    Oh by the way not all owner operators are idiots.
    If you really want to fix this you have my e mail.
    B. Lord

  • I can’t believe what I am reading here. If you have to break the law (speed) to earn a living something is drastically wrong. I can’t count the number of times I have been almost killed by some of you folks driving like idiots. I’m not trying to paint everyone with the same brush here, because the vast majority of truckers do not drive like salivating maniacs. The fact is a 70 Tonne vehicle has no business doing 120 km/h down the roads. Unlike a car where an accident often lends a second chance, A run in with a rig is to meet your demise. The state of Michigan has a speed limit of 55 mph for trucks and I don’t here any complaining comimg from there. In fact the only times I have trouble with rigs in the US, 9 times out 10 it’s a Canuk at the wheel. Take this for what it’s worth, you guys aren’t the only ones who have to drive for a living, I like to go home to my family at the end of the day too.
    Peter Benko

  • I stumbled across this quote on this site about truck drivers being tradesman as are plumbers and millwrights. I am a Journeyman millwright with a red seal. It took 10 months of schooling full time, and 4 years of apprenticing to meet the minimum requirements to be certified and then it took another 5 to 7 years as a journeyman to become proficient in my trade which has a tremendous amount of knowledge required to work in. It takes 1 week to get a class 1 complete with an air endorsement. I am not trying to belittle the profession of truck driving, indeed they are skilled professionals. But lets be realistic, to be a good truck truck driver, requires experience, most companies seek 2 years as a minimum, however it is a skilled profession. And I found it insulting, and frankly it was a very uninformed comment made in genuine ignorance of the facts, that truck driving is somehow on the same skill set and level of knowledge required to be called a trade as is my trade, Don’t be ridiculous.