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Debate rages on

OTTAWA, Ont. - National solidarity among the provincial trucking associations, a questionable poll and a speed limiter policy south of the border all added fuel to the fire over the past month, as the...

OTTAWA, Ont. – National solidarity among the provincial trucking associations, a questionable poll and a speed limiter policy south of the border all added fuel to the fire over the past month, as the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) continues to push for the mandatory use of speed limiters in the province.

The policy, which would require trucks to be mechanically limited to no more than 105 km/h, has now gone national, as all seven provincial associations have agreed to endorse the plan in their own provinces as well. Quebec was the latest to agree to the policy, which now has the full support of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).

“We want to eliminate speeding altogether; the environmental and safety benefits are simply too significant to ignore,” CTA chief David Bradley announced on March 2. His comments were soon echoed by the heads of provincial trucking associations from coast-to-coast.

Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operators’ Business Association (OBAC) said the news came as no surprise.

“The OTA made it clear from the outset they intended to seek national endorsement through the CTA,” she said in response to the announcement. “While I understand the desire for provincial carrier associations to show solidarity with their national Alliance, I’m disappointed that more of them didn’t stick to their guns and not support the OTA proposal. I’ve spoken with a number of provincial associations and their members over the past few months, and found no widespread or enthusiastic support among them.”

Controversial poll

The OTA does, however, have widespread support from the general public, the association claimed following a poll conducted last month. The association hired an independent firm called IntelliPulse to survey 1,001 Ontarians on the subject of speed limiters.

The poll found 71 per cent of respondents favoured the speed limiter proposal while 79 per cent felt Ontario highways would be safer if all trucks were limited to 105 km/h.

IntelliPulse says its sample size yields results that are accurate to within +/- 3.2 per cent, 19 out of 20 times.

“This poll confirms our belief that the Ontario public wants the provincial government to support OTA’s call to activate speed limiters,” Bradley announced.

But before the ink had dried on the OTA press release, the poll had come under fire from associations including OBAC and many truckers themselves. OBAC’s Ritchie said the poll contained no context or background information, meaning the respondents were unable to provide an educated response.

“Unless respondents were given some context, particularly information on the numerous studies that have been done with regard to the safety aspects of speed differentials, and statistical information on accidents on our highways – what kind of vehicles are speeding, where, who causes accidents, and so on – I would say these questions are irresponsible, as is the OTA’s call for government to respond favourably to their proposal based on this kind of ‘confirmation of public support’ for the idea,” Ritchie blasted.

The Royal Ontario Weights and Measures – an organization of motor carrier and safety consultants – also criticized the poll. In a letter to the OTA, director A.G. Rebkowec said the small sample size “suggests the population sought may have been limited.”

The group also said “The report also fails to identify the geographical area the survey was conducted, how it was conducted, and who was responsible for initiating the survey – any of which may prove bias.”

While Canadians continued to debate the controversial speed limiter policy, the issue has also come to the forefront south of the border.

U.S. speed limiter policy

The CTA’s U.S. counterpart, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), recently announced a speed limiter policy of its own. The group appealed for all new trucks to have their speed limiters pre-set at 68 mph at the point of manufacture.

“There has been a growing sense within the trucking industry for the need to slow down the large truck population as well as all traffic,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO. “With speeding as a factor in one third of all fatal highway crashes, it makes all the sense in the world to work to reduce this number.”

The ATA said a speed management working group formed by the association found that 75 per cent of the trucks examined in the study already had speed limiters activated and that most were set at 70 mph or lower.

The ATA policy, however, is a far cry from the one being touted here at home.

The ATA simply wants the speed limiters set at the factory – the group is not calling for the ongoing use of speed limiters to be mandated. Therefore, a fleet or O/O could have the speed limiter disengaged after purchasing a new vehicle without violating any laws, the association confirmed shortly after making its initial announcement.

Even so, the U.S. owner/operator group, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) was quick to condemn the policy.

“It may sound like a good thing to some to slow down all the big trucks,” said OOIDA executive vice-president, Todd Spencer. “But unless you slow down all the other vehicles too, you’ve really only made things more dangerous. That’s why some states are increasing previously lower speeds for trucks.”

Meanwhile, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which initially hinted of a response to the OTA speed limiter policy in January, has been mum on the subject. With so many developments to take into consideration, it’s unknown when Transport Minister Harinder Takhar will announce the province’s stance on the issue.

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