Don’t mandate the use of governors

by Dave Holleman

Traffic speeds – particularly the speeds of big rigs traveling down the highway – have recently attracted a lot of attention in Eastern Canada.

We’ve heard calls for slower commercial vehicles made by everyone from Quebec’s transportation minister to the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA). A number of traffic-related fatalities led to the musings by the Quebec politico, who wondered this summer whether truck speeds should be reduced to 90 km-h from the current level of 100 km-h. And certain members of the APTA raised a resolution during their annual meeting last year, calling for truck speed limits to be reduced to 100 km-h from 110 km. Add to this the recently appointed chairman of the Canadian Trucking Association, John Stollery, who has commented that speeding is one of his top concerns.

I have to question the motives of many of those who raise the issue of truck speeds. In an effort to boost the trucking industry’s image, Stollery, the APTA and others are – in effect – spitting in the face of owner/operators like us.

When I applied for a contract with my current employer, I did so as a professional. I was interviewed as a professional, I was hired as a professional, and I act like a professional. As an experienced driver, I’m capable of determining a safe speed for my rig. As professionals, we don’t need people sitting in offices trying to pre-determine traffic conditions.

The industry, as a whole, should not be penalized if certain members of the APTA have a problem with the speeds driven by their owner/operators.

I do agree that there are some “hotdogs” out there, and, in fact, I have had a few encounters with them and have gone so far as to report them to police. However, a trucker that speeds to the point of being a threat to others is not as common as some critics would have you believe.

Just because large vehicles intimidate many motorists as they drive in the public arena, that does not mean trucks and buses are operating in an unsafe manner. If anyone is speeding too much, it is the four-wheelers. Most professional drivers can support this notion.

Many studies in the U.S. have already concluded that split speed limits are hazardous. In fact, some states that have in the past introduced split limits have either closed the gap or eliminated it altogether. Texas is good example of this. The state not only reduced the gap of speeds between cars and trucks but also raised the limit for trucks.

Even the APTA’s own study shows that speeding trucks account for a very small percentage of those on the road.

And just because a truck is exceeding a posted speed limit, it is not necessarily operating in an unsafe or hazardous manner. There are too many variables that are involved when judging an appropriate speed. Likewise, traveling at the posted limit can also be hazardous because of traffic or weather conditions. (Remember that a police officer can issue a ticket for traveling too fast for conditions, regardless of the posted limit.)

It is generally accepted that people are going to travel the speed with which they are most comfortable, regardless of the posted speed limit, and I am of the opinion that they have the right to do exactly that. The highways and byways belong to the people who travel them and pay for them with their taxes.

The Quebec government, Transport Canada, and even John Stollery of the CTA condone the idea of mandating engine governors.

But I can’t believe that the same people who cry about a severe driver shortage condone the governing of truck engines. If anyone thinks there is a driver shortage now, just wait until something like engine governors is mandated.

If members of the APTA and other fleet executives think truck drivers like us can’t do our job or do it in a safe manner, why did they hire us in the first place?

Lowering speed limits, splitting speed limits, and governing engines all, in essence, undermine the professional driver who literally makes thousands of decisions a day concerning the safe operation of his/her truck.

There are always going to be bad apples in the bunch, but it is wrong to penalize the masses for the actions of the few. n

– Dave Holleman is an over-the-road owner/operator.

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