Private Links: Speeding Redefined

by Bruce Richards

Let’s be honest with one another. We’ve all been behind the wheel of a vehicle that is moving too quickly at some point in time.

And I don’t mean exceeding the speed limit necessarily, just going too fast for the existing conditions.

Perhaps the road was a little slick due to rain, ice, or snow, or perhaps fog obscured the view. Maybe it was just a congested road from which you were trying to escape.

Whatever the reason, there is a propensity in most of us to drive too fast for prevailing conditions from time to time.

Fortunately for most of us, the results are more or less harmless – a little acceleration in the heart rate, and perhaps a light bump into another vehicle or a fixed object with no serious damage done. ABS braking systems and other electronic controls in our vehicles often keep the front bumper of our vehicle between us and the collision point, and we breathe a little sigh of relief and vow to slow down in the future.

But as a group we don’t seem to learn from these experiences.

The number one cause of speed-related collisions in Ontario, according to the Ministry’s 2004 Road Safety Report, is travelling too fast for conditions, not exceeding the posted limit. All types of vehicles are included in this report, not just trucks.

Statistics can be a bit of a drag but it’s difficult to deny the relevance of driving too fast for conditions.

The following information comes that same Road Safety Report.

The report shows that seven times as many collisions were caused by travelling ‘too fast for conditions’ as were caused by speeding.

(A little over 3,000 collisions were the result of speeding and a little over 21,000 caused by travelling too fast for conditions.)

Trumping both of those categories of driver actions is ‘following too close’ with 10 times as many collisions resulting from this malady as there were for speeding (almost 33,000).

It may be possible to draw some links between the drivers who travel too fast for conditions and those that follow too closely. Both types of drivers are probably in too much of hurry, and not paying sufficient attention to their surroundings.

So, the statistics indicate that ‘too fast for conditions’ is more prevalent than speeding as a cause for collisions, and that then begs the question of what is being done about it?

It is easy to jump on the ‘increased enforcement’ bandwagon as the problem solver, but according to Ontario Transport Minister Donna Cansfield, that is not likely to happen.

She has acknowledged that there are limited opportunities to add significantly to the enforcement pool, and we need to come to grips with that.

It’s a continuing debate as to whether the existing resources are being maximized, and there are lots of opinions on how those resources could be better utilized, but it’s not more opinions that we need. The police need help and the trucking industry is in a position to provide at least some relief.

Most members of the PMTC operate with speed policies for their fleets. They monitor the speed of their trucks, either with speed limiters, EOBRs, or other devices.

They also enforce those company policies through a mixture of incentives and progressive discipline for their drivers.

While these policies are generally effective in controlling speed, they don’t, and probably can’t, address the issue of driving too fast for conditions.

We need other approaches to controlling the way drivers behave on the road.

Fortunately, the vast majority of commercial drivers act like professionals and operate responsibly.

That is clearly confirmed by the safety record of the community. These drivers are as concerned with the well being of other road users as they are with themselves, and it shows in the manner in which they approach the job.

If we could clone the driving habits of the professionals in the PMTC – Shaw Tracking Hall of Fame for Professional Drivers, or the OTA Road Knights, or any of the other groups that celebrate excellence in this profession, we could perhaps begin to make all drivers, commercial and automobiles, more responsible. But that’s not going to happen.

The next best thing might be to identify the characteristics that make a truly professional driver, and either seek those characteristics when hiring, or ingrain them during training.

It’s an area that has not been adequately explored and one that deserves attention as an integral part of any road safety program.

– The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Your comments or questions can be addressed to

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