Speed limiter activation: Tamper-proof or user-friendly?
May 1, 2008
CONCORD, Ont. - Though Bill 41, which would limit the speed of big rigs operating on provincial roads and highways to 105 km/h, has not yet been passed, the odds now seem heavily weighed in the propos...
HOW IT'S DONE: Toromont Cat lead hand Matt Koski says setting speed limiters is a simple process - if you have the software.
CONCORD, Ont. – Though Bill 41, which would limit the speed of big rigs operating on provincial roads and highways to 105 km/h, has not yet been passed, the odds now seem heavily weighed in the proposed legislation’s favour.
Though many Ontario carriers have been governing their fleets’ speed for years already, hundreds more may soon need to make the switch. This means that there soon could be thousands of trucks needing to have their speed limiters activated.
Speed limiters are electronic microchips which have been installed standard on virtually all heavy-duty trucks since the mid-1990s.The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA), which has been the main proponent pushing for mandatory speed limiters since 2005, has said the activation process is simple. But is it?
According to Matt Koski, lead hand and dyno operator at Toromont Cat in Concord, just north of Toronto, it is – as long as you have access to the appropriate software.
“If a man has his own truck, he can regulate speed if he has certain software – he can go in a change it to whatever he wants to,” Koski says. Using a laptop or PDA, “you go into Configurations, you go into Vehicle Speed Limit, and you punch in 105. It’s as simple as that.”
Larger fleets are more likely to have access to the necessary software for set-up, but Koski says that any changes made to the engine’s configurations will have to be done by the owner. If you’re an owner/operator and don’t have access to the software, taking your rig to an authorized dealer for speed limiter set-up should be a half-hour job – as long as your engine is electronic. However, if you’re still operating a rig with a mechanical engine, Koski estimates about four hours of labour and $200 in parts.
“The mechanical one is definitely going to cost you a good bit more,” he says, noting that mechanically limiting your speed also isn’t as precise as an electronic chip.
Fortunately, it’s likely the law will apply only to trucks manufactured since the mid-90s, when speed limiters became standard, according to the OTA.
One of the main concerns is that if speed limiters are so easy to set up, won’t they be just as easy to tamper with and to raise the maximum allowable speed? The short answer is yes, but don’t expect to get away with it.
“The ECM (Electric Control Module) needs an input from the vehicle’s speed sensor which is on the back of the transmission,” Koski says.
“If 105 km/h is set as a maximum, once reached, the ECM will cut the fuel down and not allow the truck to go any faster. (However) there have been people disrupting that signal, so the ECM doesn’t know what the vehicle’s speed is.”
Should a driver decide to tamper with the signal, the vehicle speed limit protection will kick in, Koski says. If the ECM loses the vehicle’s speed signal, it will automatically go to a pre-programmed default RPM value, which will usually cause the rig to go even slower than 105 km/h.
As well, the configurations for vehicle speed, the vehicle speed limit protection, and RPM are all password-protected, so each time one is accessed and/or changed, the user leaves a “signature.” Therefore, changes can be tracked back to the user – so meddlers, beware.
That said, Koski admits that there is always some way to beat the system and it’s only a matter of time until someone comes up with a “tampering solution.” But you’ll still run the risk of ending up on the wrong end of a radar gun. And if the law is passed as written, tampering with the speed limiter settings will carry additional fines.