Truck News


Viewpoint: Better to live with pain of discipline now than regret later

The mandatory use of speed limiters on heavy-duty vehicles is easily the most controversial and divisive issue the trucking industry has faced in recent years....

Lou Smyrlis

Lou Smyrlis

The mandatory use of speed limiters on heavy-duty vehicles is easily the most controversial and divisive issue the trucking industry has faced in recent years.

As you can see from reading the two columns on this page we’re of different minds on the issue ourselves. James raises a valid concern in his editorial about the opposition to the plan by many drivers and owner/operators. Considering the current driver shortage, further alienating the driver pool is risky business. But driver and owner/operator opposition needs to looked at beyond the position taken by the owner/operator associations and driver unions. There’s close to 36,000 owner/operators in Canada; only a small percentage belong to an owner/operator association. Similarly, only a small percentage of drivers belong to unions.

It’s also important to hear opinions on the issue that go beyond carriers and drivers. Considering the volatile nature of the debate, those more distanced from it may have a more valid stance. Engine manufacturers, for example, agree engines will operate more efficiently if governed to 105 km/h or less. As Rob Hall, truck engine sales manager with Toromont Cat pointed out to Truck News, the higher the RPM, the more life you take out of your truck. Tire and brake wear can also be reduced through lower speeds.

Nor would it be wise to ignore the fact that Canada as a committed participant to the Kyoto Protocol has some pretty aggressive targets on greenhouse reduction it needs to meet over the next few years. And trucking – thanks to its growth and commanding share of freight movements – has a big bull’s eye on it. Limiting trucks to 105 km/h could cut as much as 140 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to the OTA. Would it be wise to pass that up considering Transport Canada’s director general of environmental affairs has already pointedly told truckers that climate change policy is at a crossroads and if voluntary measures do not succeed, more intrusive measures may be used in the future?

Canadian carriers hauling into the U.S. are also prime targets should they be involved in a fatal or major injury-causing accident. I imagine any carrier without a strict speeding policy would be easy pickings.

Finally, there’s also the views of shippers to consider. The trucking industry has been aggressively pushing fuel surcharges and rightly so.

Almost all shippers are paying them and they’re feeling the pain. How long before they start asking their trucking service providers tough questions such as what they’re doing to ensure they’re as fuel-efficient as possible? As Stan Dunford, president and CEO of Contrans, pointed out recently, when you start charging somebody 28 per cent of their freight bill for fuel, that tends to wake them up. A truck that travels at 120 km/h will consume about 10,500 more litres of diesel fuel than the same truck running at 105 km/h. Is it wise to throw such savings away?

As my high school football coach used to say: you can live with the pain of discipline now or the pain of regret later.

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at

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