MONTREAL, Que. - Despite the Minister of Transportation 's announcement this summer that safety initiatives, including speed limiters for heavy vehicles, photo radar and a cell phone ban could be legi...
MONTREAL, Que. – Despite the Minister of Transportation ‘s announcement this summer that safety initiatives, including speed limiters for heavy vehicles, photo radar and a cell phone ban could be legislated by year’s end, Transports Quebec explained to Truck News in September that it simply does not know when these recommendations from the Table Quebecoise de la Securite Routiere (Quebec Table on Road Safety) might be implemented.
“There are technical questions about the speed limiters. Quebec must test whether they are realistic. What will happen in other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States?
It is a continental question – not a simple thing,” explains Transports Quebec communications specialist Mario St-Pierre.
The Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) supports the proposal to limit the maximum speed of heavy trucks to 105 km/h with the use of speed limiters. But there are other views, like those from truckers who believe that if they are good for trucks, then cars should have them too, that they will cause accidents, split speeds are unsafe, there are already speeding laws on the books, government cars speed all the time – these are just a sampling of the comments made by the 346 people who, as of Sept. 8 had signed an Internet petition against speed limiters started by Jean Catudal.
Interestingly, although speed limiters are promoted by the Table and others as a way to increase safety and reduce fatigue, last year’s action plan on climate change in Quebec had something else in mind: Speed limiters and a 105 km/h maximum speed as a way to save 10,500 litres of fuel per rig per year and the potential reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 330,000 tonnes a year by 2012.
An investigation by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) on the use of speed limiters found that the majority of fleets they polled use them so their trucks will stick to the speed limits. Only 8% of the fleets cited safety considerations (although the ATRI notes that many fleets thought the posted speed limit was the safest speed). Eighteen per cent cited fuel considerations.
In addition to photo radar (and cameras at red lights), banning cell phones while driving and speed limiters, the Table proposed three other highest-priority initiatives: Stiffer penalties for excessive speeding, a tougher stance on drinking and driving and graduated licences.
Excessive speeding would be penalized with double the usual fine and double the demerit points off drivers’ licences; a first conviction for drinking and driving would net a 90-day suspension instead of the current 60, and repeat offenders would have their vehicles impounded for 30 days.
In August, Transports Quebec launched a series of information sessions around the province on those six initiatives. Transports Quebec could not say where and when sessions for later in the fall will take place – it advises people interested in attending them to watch for announcements of their coming in their local papers.
The QTA, as much as it dislikes speeders, strongly opposes photo radar.
“Photo radar places an administrative burden on the trucking industry which we do not hesitate to qualify as unacceptable,” begins QTA president Marc Cadieux in a detailed explanation of what is wrong with this tool.
Minister of Transport Julie Boulet announced that photo radar would start small with a pilot project testing nine photo radar sites in three regions of Quebec, but according to St-Pierre, neither the sites nor project start date is yet known. (In 2001 photo radar Bill 17 died here without ever becoming law).
Although the Table favours an outright ban on the use of cell phones while vehicles are moving, it acknowledges that for users in the transportation industry some sort of transition period would be in order.
The QTA already recommends that its members sensitize their drivers on the importance of using them only when their rigs are not moving, but it does not favour an outright ban on their use while underway. Contrary to the Table’s position, the QTA does not object to hands-free cell phone use or with headsets.
The Table recommends several other initiatives for the trucking industry aimed at making the road safer; for example, improving driver behaviour by targeting drivers and carriers at risk and rewarding those with exemplary behaviour.
Now that rings a bell: The Societe de l’assurance Automobile du Quebec planned to launch a pilot project in this very vein in 2002 called “Partenaires Emerites” modeled after Alberta’s “Partners in Compliance” program.
The Table also recommends developing a fresh campaign along the lines of the “Share the Road” campaign started a couple of years ago to promote better understanding between heavy vehicles and passenger vehicles. Driver fatigue is a perennial issue, and the Table believes a fatigue management program based on an information and education campaign is necessary.