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Transport Canada studies offer insight on speed limiters

OTTAWA, Ont. - Transport Canada has released a group of studies that examine the implications of a national heavy truck speed limiter program from safety, environmental, economic and operational persp...

OTTAWA, Ont. –Transport Canada has released a group of studies that examine the implications of a national heavy truck speed limiter program from safety, environmental, economic and operational perspectives. The extensive report was released July 4 -a mere two and a half weeks after the government of Ontario went ahead and approved Bill 41, which will require all heavy trucks operating in the province to have their speeds mechanically limited to no more than 105 km/h.

While the province’s trigger-happy approach may have raised a few eyebrows, the studies’ findings still offer insight for the remaining eight provinces which have yet to pass similar legislation. In the following summary, you will find a varied mix of opinions based on each topic addressed.


As its name suggests, the basic aim of the report Safety Implication of Mandated Truck Speed Limiters on Canadian Highways was to assess the safety implications of mandating speed limiters on various sections of highway including: straight; off-ramp segment; on-ramp segment; and the combined on/off-ramp.

According to the report, the introduction of speed limiters set at 105 km/h increased safety in uncongested traffic, especially in the straight segment. When the maximum speed was set at 110 km/h, the safety gains with the introduction of mandatory limiters were decreased.

However, as volume and percentage of trucks increased, the safety gains from speed limiters became less pronounced. The study found that as traffic volume reached near-capacity (2,000 vehicles per hour per lane) more “vehicle interactions” took place which led to a reduction in safety, especially with merging, lane-changing, and using on-and off-ramps. In these instances, speed limiters actually reduced the level of safety.


The study Trade and Competitiveness Assessment of Mandated Speed Limiters for Heavy Trucks Operating in Canada assessed the competitiveness impacts of speed limiters in two scenarios: one scenario with the policy implemented only by Ontario and Quebec, the other with the policy implemented throughout Canada.

In the Ontario-Quebec scenario, the study found that about 30% of Atlantic Canada’s fleets would be affected because of their business with the two provinces. Owner/operators in particular felt that their productivity would be impacted as speed limiters would prevent them from completing deliveries within their daily legal Hours-of-Service. Some indicated that both safety and productivity considerations would lead them to avoid Quebec and Ontario for business.

Unlike Atlantic Canada, only a small portion of Western Canada’s trucking industry interacts with Ontario and Quebec. It was the consultant’s best estimate that less than 10% of Western Canada’s heavy truck population would be affected by Ontario and Quebec mandating speed limiters.

Since Canadian-based companies hauling into the US cannot compete with US-based fleets on runs within the US, mandated speed limiters would not create any competitive issues, according to the study. The majority (80%) of US owner/operators interviewed, on the other hand, indicated that to avoid being speed limited they would no longer haul into Quebec or Ontario.

The national scenario was found to have a limited effect on most Atlantic Canada-based fleets as the majority operate in a triangular movement (to US, then to Ontario and then back to Atlantic Canada).

However, a national mandate would have a far greater effect on the estimated 90% of Western Canadian fleets that would be, for the most part, unaffected by the Ontario/Quebec mandate.

In the US, the study noted that many states south of the Prairies have higher speed limits which would once again raise safety and productivity concerns for small fleets and O/Os. US-based owner/operators noted that this disadvantage would be enough to keep them from operating in Canada.

Overall, it was found that there could be some impact on trucking industry competitiveness within speed-limited jurisdictions provided sufficient numbers of operators were to avoid such jurisdictions. This would be mitigated to the extent that operators choose to invest in and use the tools required to changes the speed limiter setting as they enter or leave speed-limited jurisdictions or ultimately decide to operate speed-limited.

However, a costing analysis performed as part of this study indicated that the increased fuel and vehicle operating costs of travelling at speeds above 105 km/h outweigh the increased productivity benefits. See the environmental study below for more details.

Environmental benefits

The study Environmental Benefits of Speed Limiters for Heavy Trucks Operating in Canada updates the results of a discussion paper started in October 2006. Estimates of fuel savings and environmental benefits have since been updated using more detailed speed distribution and truck traffic volume data.

The updated annual fuel savings are now estimated at 228.6 million litres, 0.6% above the previously estimated total of 227.3 million litres. This is 1.4% of the total diesel fuel consumed by road vehicles in Canada in 2006. Depending upon the price of fuel, this would result in a cost saving in excess of $200 million per year.

The annual GHG savings are now estimated at 0.64 megatonnes, compared to the previous estimate of 0.63 megatonnes. Ontario and Quebec combined account for 64% of the estimated national saving, according to the study.

Case studies

The Speed Limiter Case Study endeavoured to assess the benefits, effectiveness and implementation issues associated with mandatory speed limiters through carrier case studies in two Canadian trucking segments (for-hire and private).

The case studies demonstrated that speed limiters have become a “way of life” for carriers and estimates suggest that more than 60% of carrier fleets in Canada have speed limiter policies in place, many for more than 10 years.

The case study research found that both carrier fleets said that their speed limiter policies were initially introduced to improve the efficiency of their business by reducing operating costs (fuel and maintenance) and potentially reducing collision risks. However, researchers we were not able to quantify these improvements since neither carrier could provide data on pre-speed limiter costs.

In addition, both carrier fleets reported a low incidence of speed-related violations and the drivers interviewed did not believe that the speed controls created a significant operational or safety concern. The case study also suggested that neither of the carrier fleets studied appear to have any market disadvantage compared to their competitors as a result of their speed control policies and in fact may have a market advantage associated with driver retention and driver job satisfaction.

The global experience

This international study on heavy truck speed limiters focused on Australia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden, and analyzed compliance and enforcement strategies, the effectiveness of the legislation, and viewpoints from stakeholders in government, enforcement, trucking associations and others.

Speed limiters are generally believed to have had a positive impact on road safety and have contributed to a decrease in accidents involving heavy vehicles, the study found. In the UK, for instance, heavy vehicle accidents have dropped by 26% since speed limiter legislation was enacted in 1992. Other positive benefits from the enactment of speed limiter legislation include lower fuel consumption (from 3-11%), lower maintenance costs (tires, brakes, and engine) and reduced insurance premiums, according to an assessment done by the European Commission.

Road safety concerns as a result of the speed limiter requirement have been noted by UK and Swedish officials, particularly the problem of speed-limited trucks o
vertaking each other on divided highways, and causing traffic backlog. Other road safety issues identified in the UK included convoys of trucks blocking the on-and off-ramps of highways. Under UK law, all speed-limited trucks are relegated to the inside lanes on highways of three or more lanes. The necessity of having sufficient enforcement personnel to verify speed limiter compliance was a key finding in this report.

Technical considerations

This study summarized technical issues and limitations of electronic speed limiters with respect to compliance, enforcement, and tampering, based on questionnaire responses from the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) and the Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA).

TMA stated that a great deal more information is needed before a reasoned decision can be made on technical and tampering issues. Yet TMA supports proposals that are demonstrated to provide safety benefits and are practical.

“We believe this (a mandate for speed limiters in heavy trucks) proposal has flaws, especially in terms of its practicality,” the TMA said.

EMA officials said they were strongly opposed to any proposal that would require manufacturers to ‘hardwire’ a limit specific to a particular jurisdiction.

“Such a proposal is unworkable for a number of reasons: speed limiter settings operate on the basis of an engine/vehicle interface and are dependent upon a number of variables outside of the control of the engine manufacturer; engine manufacturers do not and cannot know the vehicle configurations in which their engines will be installed;engine manufacturers do not and cannot know the jurisdictions in which their engines will be operating; and engines are designed and produced for North American and global markets.”

In general, EMA prefers voluntary, incentivized measures rather than regulatory mandates.

Further study

A seventh report, titled Speed Limiter Summary Report, which will assess the requirement of speed limiters on heavy trucks in Canada based on the above research and analysis, will be released in the future. To read the first six reports in full, visit it/menu. htm.

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