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Industry Issues: Top trucking execs push for speed limiter policy

There has been no small amount of debate or media coverage of late about the Ontario Trucking Association's proposal to mandate the activation of speed limiters on all trucks that operate in the provi...

David Bradley

David Bradley

There has been no small amount of debate or media coverage of late about the Ontario Trucking Association’s proposal to mandate the activation of speed limiters on all trucks that operate in the province, regardless of domicile, at no more than 105 km/h. This proposal has clearly got people talking. I don’t think that is a bad thing. Passion is good. But to suggest, as some have, that OTA has no idea about what truck drivers must endure everyday is wrong and indicates a lack of understanding of who we are and how the policy came about.

OTA is a member-driven organization. And while it is unlikely that an association with as many members as ours will ever get unanimity on anything, the support for the policy amongst carriers was nothing short of remarkable and is reflective, I think, of the change in thinking on a host of issues that has been underway in the industry over the past few years.

The apparent opposition from a segment of the driver and owner/operator population does not come as a surprise to us. During the development of the policy we sought out the views of drivers. We received a lot of sound advice and information and incorporated many of the themes and suggestions (e.g., the need to slow car drivers down, to provide a cushion for passing slower moving vehicles, etc.) into the policy.

But, more than that, many of the people who helped develop the policy, approved it and support it were truck drivers. And although they are now company owners and senior executives many of these people still drive, if only periodically. I am turning this month’s column over to some of these people. You’ll find some of strongest advocates for speed limiters are former drivers themselves:

Paul Ming, president, Client Transport: “I have driven trucks for 34 years and with our small fleet I still do at times. My company drivers aren’t even allowed to run at 105km/h. Our fleet fuel average for Jan /06 so far is 7.6 mpg. Last year’s average was 8 mpg. Client Transportation ‘s CVOR rating is 1.9. Our WSIB claims are nil. This is all part of controlled speeds and quality drivers that are mature enough to understand. Proof is in the pudding. Slow down, relax, save fuel and live with less stress in your lives.”

Brian Taylor, president, Liberty Linehaul: “I am always amazed at the reactions we receive and who they come from. As you know, I have driven as a company driver and an owner/operator before getting involved in my own company. I like to think that I understand the mindset of the people in our industry. This whole resistance to 105 km/h top speed has me puzzled. These owner/operator associations would be helping their members a lot more if they supported and sold this to their members than take the easy route and criticize the change. If the owner/operators that are speeding would just slow down for one month and track their expenses we wouldn’t have to sell them at all.”

Ron Martin, president, Bridgeland Terminals: “I am the president of a small tank truck carrier. My introduction to the trucking industry was first as a driver, and to this day I drive on various occasions. Our company already has a speed policy identical to that which OTA proposes. Prior to implementation I did several trips experimenting with these speeds to evaluate trip times and driving comfort etc. Over the years we have had an extremely low turnover of drivers, we have never been run over because of our speed, and above all it has been an important part of the safe operation of our fleet, as well as very cost effective.”

Jim Thomson, president and CEO, Thomson Terminals Limited: “As a former driver I strongly believe we should pursue the speed control process. We cannot continue on the path with a cavalier regard toward speed or the consequences of the same. Our goal has been to provide the best working conditions for our employees. Our drivers want to see their families and their families want to see them and speed has no place in the process.”

Rob Penner, vice-president Operations, Bison Transport: “As a former driver, I find it odd to hear people saying that mandating speed limiters is not something government should be involved in, but point the finger at the police to deal with the problem. As far as I know, law enforcement and our police services are already a function of government. Do we really expect the police services to grow at a rate comparable to the rapidly increasing volumes of traffic? Is it a good use of taxpayer money to focus more law enforcement resources on highway traffic versus all of the other issues our society faces? I would think there are better ways than a chance encounter with the highway patrol might offer up. Logically we could all agree it would be best if all vehicles operated at a similar speed, provided that speed is actually a safe speed. Is this an all or nothing situation? Is it acceptable to take the position that if we can’t slow down everybody we shouldn’t slow down anybody? The decision on whether or not to adopt speed limiters in Ontario is really a decision on whether or not we continue to allow a minority of truck drivers and a minority of unscrupulous carrier’s free rein on our public roadways.”

Kirk Zavitz, president, Zavcor Trucking: “Our trucks are currently limited to 100 km/h except for 10 per cent of the travelling time, which can be up to 108 km/h to allow passing or rolling off hills when conditions permit. We also pay a safety bonus paid monthly and at the end of the year the best drivers earn a special gift / reward, last year a TV/DVD player for inside the bunk. We have been doing this for 16 years. I still take the occasional trip myself and find that even at these speeds there are still a few trucks travelling slower than we are. After you get used to driving slower it’s much more relaxing. The economic benefits to trucks at slower speeds are enormous and accidents are avoided.”

John Cyopeck, president and CEO, Canpar Transport: “I drove truck for about 20 years and still get out on the road every once in a while. It is very simple here at Canpar. We have had a 90 km/h speed limit for linehaul trucks for over 22 years. We travel the 401 from Windsor to Montreal nightly and we have never had anyone run into us from behind in all that time. I am convinced the savings on fuel, maintenance costs, and most importantly safety and accidents has been paid back year after year.”

Paul Hammond, president, Muskoka Transport: “I have been in business for 35 years in the trucking industry. I have had my A/Z licence for 43 years and still drive tractor trailer on occasion, with the use of speed limiters, our company reduced our speed limit to 100 km/h in 1991. The benefits realized from this action have been substantial. We have experienced increased fuel mileage, improved tire wear and less stress for our company drivers. This industry has to improve its image. I fully support the use of speed limiters.”

– David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

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