Editorial Comment: Is legislation really required to increase use of speed limiters?
January 1, 2006
It seems everyone has an opinion on the Ontario Trucking Association's (OTA) new policy supporting the mandatory use of speed limiters on heavy duty vehicles. OTA carriers, environmental groups and la...
It seems everyone has an opinion on the Ontario Trucking Association’s (OTA) new policy supporting the mandatory use of speed limiters on heavy duty vehicles. OTA carriers, environmental groups and law enforcement agencies are nearly unanimously in support of the controversial policy. Judging by feedback from Truck News readers, however, drivers and owner/operators are adamantly opposed to the idea, despite the inherent benefits of running speed-limited trucks.
The OTA makes a strong case for speed limiters. Running at 105 km/h compared to 120 km/h can save a fleet or O/O $8,400 per year in fuel (per vehicle). As much as 140 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions may be removed from the air we breathe. And ideally with trucks running at the same speed there would be fewer “elephant races” as one truck tries to pass another.
Some proponents of the program will admit that levelling the playing field is another reason for mandating speed limiters, as fringe carriers that think they don’t have to adhere to existing speed laws will lose their competitive advantage. The OTA also argues driver lifestyle will be enhanced as truckers will no longer be pressured to speed and will see only a slight difference in trip times – if any at all.
The OTA seems to have done its homework on the subject and there’s little reason to question the validity of its claims. I’m still unconvinced about the plan’s ability to reduce crashes – after all, it’s been well-documented that speed differentials are a leading cause of accidents and slowing down trucks won’t result in cars travelling any slower.
While the use of speed limiters makes sense from a business and environmental perspective, if this proposal gets to the legislative stage it’s not going to sit well with drivers. Many insist it will be the final straw that will prompt them to abandon the industry altogether – and in many cases it’s law-abiding drivers already operating speed-limited trucks that are making these claims.
Can the industry really afford to chase its most valuable asset – the men and women behind the wheel – out of the industry? Surely there must be other ways to increase the use of speed limiters, whether it be through increased education or government involvement.
It’s our federal government, after all, that signed us up for this Kyoto Accord, so why shouldn’t it be responsible for helping industry meet its Kyoto obligations? Why shouldn’t government be pressured into ponying up and offering incentives such as tax breaks for fleets and owner/operators who voluntarily set their speed limiters to 105 km/h and consequently reduce their fuel consumption?
When an owner/operator or company driver (one would hope all carriers would pass the incentive onto drivers who agree to use speed limiters and achieve pre-set fuel mileage expectations) receives their first cheque in the mail, you can bet they’ll be much more receptive to using speed limiters.
The industry-wide use of speed limiters is an ambitious and noble concept – one that can benefit the entire industry. But it’s important the OTA and government combine to take a carrot rather than stick approach to this touchy subject. After all, truckers are tired of being hit with sticks.