An O/O’s view on speed limiters

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The following is an open letter to Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) president, David Bradley:

Dear Mr. Bradley:

I was flabbergasted when I first heard of the proposal by the OTA to recommend the mandating of speed limiters on all trucks operating within Ontario, and beyond even.

First off, Mr. Bradley, as we’re both well aware, any political and/or governmental intervention on any issue regarding the trucking industry will inevitably lead to a situation that can at times be totally unfair, draconian and unrealistic. Take the “wheels-off” legislation for example and the absolute liability now associated with any items coming off any truck. Did the OTA board not consider some of the legal consequences that could arise with this kind of proposal? Do you think we really need to invite more of this? How much stress are you prepared to put on drivers? Where will it end?

And then I have to question the motives behind this kind of thinking. ‘Joe Average’ motorist already, for the most part, does not have a favourable opinion of any trucks on ‘their’ highways. All trucks and truck drivers, as far as they’re concerned, are menaces that should be banned. Do you really think this will change their opinions?

And what about the public relations nightmare this could create? I can see the headlines now: “Trucking Association Acknowledges Speeding Trucks are a Problem and Need to be Controlled.”

The media and the anti-truck people will have a heyday with this. Mr. Bradley, where are the facts that state that trucks are getting these high speeding tickets? Do you really believe that trucks are travelling faster than cars? When is the last time you drove the speed limit on the 401? Try setting your cruise control at 110 km/hr and tell me who’s passing you now? It would seem to me that this argument doesn’t float, so there must be another reason.

A telling comment came from an OTA member when he said something about “creating a level playing field.”

Fleets that currently have their trucks governed are obviously doing this to gain a competitive advantage;their fuel and associated maintenance costs are lower. These same fleets will argue that their delivery service ratings are excellent and that their scheduling is not hampered by governed trucks. In fact, most governed trucks can, for the most part, run as well as a non-speed-governed truck and keep satisfactory highway speeds and schedules.

I’ll concur with these facts, so why would you want to erase that advantage and create a level playing field? I do know that these same fleets face greater challenges whenever recruiting experienced drivers. Could this be the “level playing field” they are seeking? That’s my opinion!

I think that the OTA should be expending its energies toward encouraging stricter enforcement of current, posted speed laws for all vehicles. There are references that different jurisdictions in North America have slower posted speeds for trucks and it works quite well. Take Ohio for example. To my knowledge, Ohio does not require all trucks to have mandatory speed control governors. No, their success stems from strict enforcement of their posted speed laws.

And has the OTA considered some of the negative implications from these proposals? Obviously, recruiting experienced drivers is one. And do we think mandatory speed limiters will help this problem, or make it go away by spreading it to everyone?

How about on multi-lane highways where trucks are geared, powered and loaded differently? Do you really think this will help in creating better “lane discipline,” as some OTA members seem to suggest? How safe do you think it is on many smaller highways, of which there are thousands of kilometres in Ontario, when a ‘crippled’ truck is attempting to pass a slower vehicle?

Or are you suggesting that all trucks should be following each other in the same lane? Do you really believe that some car drivers don’t play games with trucks trying to pass? If you want to compare these speed controls to Europe, are you prepared to start paying drivers on an hourly scale as most European drivers are paid?

And the standard excuse by some carriers that their insurance companies demand mandatory speed controls is hogwash. It is something a carrier can take to an insurance company and their customers to realize better rates, but it is carrier initiated.

There are many issues that don’t seem to be well thought through when this was brought forth.

I think it came as a “knee-jerk” reaction by some of the OTA when they were doing their European trucking tour. Perhaps the diesel fumes overcame their logical thinking?

Ed Wesselius

Guelph, Ont.

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