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We need training, not speed limiters

There are many very good reasons to limit truck speeds to 65 miles per hour. In fact, there are many very good reasons to limit all vehicle speeds to 65 mph. This is the position of the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

They want federal regulators in the US to pass legislation requiring all heavy trucks to be equipped with electronic speed limiters and see a uniform 65 mph speed limit for all vehicles passed into law. Safety is the primary reason cited by the ATA in their decision to take this path. The problem is that you can teach and embrace safe practices and develop a culture of safety but you can’t legislate that attitude. Consequently the whole issue of using technology to impose safety has become highly politicized and the benefits of effective safety practices such as managing vehicle speed are lost in all the noise.

So how has a speed limiter rule on big trucks affected safety in the province of Ontario? It’s hard to know. But wait, let’s remember the speed limiter legislation was passed in Ontario in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; improved safety was to be a positive fallout as a result. 

Let’s also remember that a large percentage of carriers had already embraced limiting their speeds on purely economic grounds prior to the passage of speed limiter legislation in Ontario. It’s pretty hard to make an argument that safety will be improved by limiting heavy trucks to 105 km/h in a jurisdiction that has a maximum speed of 100 km/h for all vehicles.

Perhaps the better question to ask is, has the speed limiter law affected the attitudes of drivers and motor carriers in the province of Ontario (and Quebec which also has the same law in place)? I think it has affected attitudes, but not in a positive way.

If you travel in Ontario, you know that speeds on the 400-series highways don’t flow at 100 km/h, which is the posted speed limit. It is common knowledge that if you don’t exceed 115 km/h you’re not going to catch any grief from enforcement officials. In fact you will probably be travelling with the flow of traffic at that speed – if you’re in a car, that is.

In fact a December 2013 article posted on regarding MTO enforcement officers being equipped with radar in their vehicles stated “They’ll be able to clock commercial vehicles and fine any driver travelling over 115 km/h for violating the province’s speed limiter law.”

So for heavy trucks we have an imposed 105 km/h limit on the equipment in a jurisdiction that has a 100 km/h speed limit and those laws are enforced when the vehicle exceeds 115 km/h.

What we have created in Ontario is an environment where it has become an accepted practice to run at governed speed no matter what. Drivers are increasingly abandoning their responsibility of governing their own speed based on the equipment they are driving and the environmental conditions they are driving in and carriers are abandoning their responsibility to provide adequate ongoing driver training that improves both safety and profitability.

Let’s face it, the best piece of safety equipment in any vehicle is a professionally trained and engaged driver behind the wheel. Using technology to limit a vehicle’s speed then passing that into law removes a degree of responsibility from all the players in the game. Some say this is leveling the playing field. I say it is more like passing the buck.

Many drivers will put forward the argument that limiting truck speed causes “elephant races” and causes hazards on the road since trucks become rolling road blocks to other vehicles. My own experience is that this is not the case.

As a driver you can manage your own speed to prevent these situations from developing. Since the speed limiter legislation was passed I started travelling at 60 mph (97 km/h) as my cruise speed. This provides me with 8 km/h to pass any slower moving vehicle that I approach and those packs of trucks that are engaged in their ongoing elephant race simply pass me by.
I would say that over 80% of my travel time is spent within a huge stress-free space cushion even in relatively heavy traffic.

When I find myself in heavy traffic, well, the flow of traffic is then considerably less than the posted limit. Does this limit my earning potential? No. Does it create a time burden for me? No. Do other vehicles run in to me because of the speed I’m travelling? No. Am I profitable? Definitely.

The speed limiter law in Ontario is a foolish law. We could attain even better results with improved driver training and a paradigm shift on
how traffic laws are enforced for all vehicles. 



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1 Comment » for We need training, not speed limiters
  1. Jeremy Mendes says:

    I do believe it was Challenger Motorfrieght that collaborated with the OTA and spearheaded a lobby to implement the speed limiter law in Ontario.I also recall some statements made by Challenger Motorfrieght in support of speed limiters which raised the question of what the motives actually were.Challenger Motirfreight stated that their company already had the fleet governed at 102km/h for safe operational practices.In reality, that was not the choice of Challenger Motorfreight but the conditions of the insurance policy in direct relation to the company’s operational safety record.Many trucking companies are subject to these conditions.Many people believe the lobby duped the Ministry of Transport and the people of Ontario in an attempt to have all trucking companies on the same playing field.If you have a team operation on a round trip to Southern California who are able to operate at the posted speed limits through most of the trip (75mph),that would reduce the overall duration of the trip by some 20 hrs compared to being limited to 65mph on a 5000 mile turn.

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