Once the subject of fierce debate, speed limiters are a fact of life in Ontario, Quebec

Most trucks operating in Ontario and Quebec have had to mechanically govern their speeds at 105 km/h since 2008, but proposals for similar legislation in B.C. and the U.S. bring back memories of the controversy that surrounded the policy at the time.

Then, the Ontario and Quebec trucking associations lobbied for the legislation, and faced fierce pushback from many owner-operators, small fleets, and the associations that represented them. Concerns were raised about so-called “elephant races” — two trucks traveling side by side at roughly the same speed, while trying to complete a pass — and safety issues related to an inability to accelerate out of dangerous situations.

speeding trucks
(Photo: iStock)

But when asked recently about speed limiter enforcement, an Ontario Ministry of Transportation spokesman credited the policy for contributing to a 34% reduction in fatalities involving large trucks since the mandate took effect.

Enforcement of speed limiter legislation in Ontario, however, looks different today than it did in 2009. Then, enforcement officers were equipped with an EzTrac device that plugged into the truck’s engine ECM to determine whether or not the top speed limit was set to 105 km/h. The use of that device was discontinued in 2019 “due to incompatibility with certain engine models,” an MTO spokesman said on background.

Violations decreasing

Today, Ontario enforcement officers rely solely on the “deeming provision,” which allows them to penalize drivers under Sec. 68.1 (1) of the Highway Traffic Act for not having a functioning speed limiter if they’re captured traveling 115 km/h or more.

Not surprisingly, the number of infractions has fallen since the EzTrac device was discontinued, from 1,173 in 2010 to just 36 so far this year. There’s little evidence, however, that speed limiter legislation had any of the feared impacts on truck safety.

Some of those same concerns, nonetheless, persist in the U.S. where the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) – a powerful lobby group representing small business truckers, which also actively campaigned against the Ontario legislation – continues to dig in its heels in opposition to such laws.

Speed differentials

OOIDA, responding to an advance notice of supplemental proposed rulemaking from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), has voiced concerns about speed differentials in particular.

“Studies and research have already proven what we were all taught long ago in driver’s ed classes, that traffic is safest when vehicles all travel at the same relative speed,” OOIDA president Todd Spencer said last year. “Limiting trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles, which can lead to more crashes.”

The organization also points out most crashes involving commercial trucks occur in areas where speed limits are below 55 mph (88 km/h), mitigating the impact of a potential mandate. OOIDA received an ally this May when Congressman Josh Brecheen introduced the Deregulating Restrictions on Interstate Vehicles and Eighteen-Wheelers (DRIVE) Act (HR 3039). The bill would prevent FMCSA from mandating speed limiters on heavy trucks.

“I know from experience driving a semi while hauling equipment, and years spent hauling livestock, that the flow of traffic set by state law is critical for safety instead of an arbitrary one-size-fits-all speed limit imposed by some bureaucrat sitting at his desk in Washington, D.C.,” the congressman said. “This rule will add one more needless burden and Congress must stop it. For example, if a rancher is transporting cattle in a trailer across state lines, under this rule, the federal government would require a speed limiter device when above 26,000 lb. Out-of-control bureaucrats are trying to impose ridiculous regulations on Americans who are trying to make ends meet.”

The National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) also endorsed the DRIVE Act.

“Mandating speed limiters on commercial vehicles would increase speed differentials between cars and trucks, increase traffic density, and increase impatience and risky driving by those behind a plodding truck,” said David Owen, NASTC president.

For its part, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports speed limiter legislation set at 70 mph (112 km/h) for trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, and at 65 mph (104 km/h) for trucks without such technologies.

“To be clear: a US DOT rule on speed limiters is coming. ATA will again be at the table, steering an outcome with a data-driven policy, not baseless rhetoric,” the association wrote in a recent blog that took aim at opponents of speed limiter legislation.

“We continue to fight efforts by anti-truck groups to pursue a speed-limiter rule setting speeds in the low 60s. Anti-truck advocates pushed to include that in the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and ATA fought successfully to keep those provisions out of the final bill.”

B.C. Bill 23

For its part, B.C. announced plans to mandate speed limiters as part of Bill 23, tabled in early April.

“We are committed to improving the safety for all road users in B.C. while also creating a cleaner, future-ready transportation network on our roads,” a B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson told TruckNews.com at the time. “Speed limiter equipment in heavy-duty commercial vehicles has been shown to dramatically reduce speed-related crashes in jurisdictions where their use is required and reduce GHG emissions.”

The B.C. Trucking Association supports the legislation. The province said it will examine legislation in Ontario and Quebec when establishing fines. In Ontario, failure to have a functioning speed limiter can net fines of $250 to $20,000, while it will cost from $350 to $1,050 for the same violation in Quebec.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Driving the highways in ON, it appears over half of the ON based trucks do not have speed limiters. They pass you easily when I am driving at 100km/h. Northern ON 110km/h seems to be the standard now.

    • I agree and out on the prairies they pass me like I’m standing still at 105? Speed limiter my butt.

  • In this day and age where we are so technically proficient, can we not come up with a speed limiter that would allow a truck to exceed it’s set limit for a brief period? As someone who has been stuck behind a truck trying to execute a pass, I know that I would certainly appreciate this! Allowing a one minute boost of speed every so often seems like it would solve some of the issues and should be very doable.

    • It is. Some trucks have that capability. The companies, fuel cost conscious, don’t tell drivers that.

  • When I was hauling liquor for the LCBO, I was on hwy 7 in Ontario heading back to Whitby fro Ottawa. I was doing the legal limit of 80km/hr
    I was pulled over by the OPP. I asked why? He said that I was going too slow and was a danger to other motorists, especially 4 wheelers. I said the limit is 80! He said do anywhere from 90 to 100 and you won’t be bothered up here. I said if I did that the safety manager at my company would haul me in for an explanation. He gave me his card and said tell him to call me. I was called in. I have hime the card
    He called. Listened, hung up and apologized for yelling at me. He later put a notice out telling drivers on that route to go between 90 and 100. This is a COP saying basically that speed limits and limiters are two different things

  • If only it was enforced I am a retired truck driver I travel between Sudbury and Toronto on a regular basis from orrillia to Toronto there is so many gravel trucks and 99 per cent are doing 120 and faster it is insane out there. No enforcement of the speed limit at all not much point in speed limiters if they just watch them go by

  • The MTO’s claim that fatality’s have been reduced by 34% is laughable considering all the carnage on Ontario’s highways, but I guess any number they can pull out of a hat sounds good and helps to justify their existence.

  • Punish the ones that are causing the problems. I use common sense. I’m not out racing. But it’s crazy that out on Prairies I get passed all the time but do called trucks from Ontario/ Quebec that are supposedly speed limited. And it’s big companies. So what gives? I mind my own at 100 or less. Especially the huge loads I haul. I wanna know how these provinces can get away passing such laws? When most trucks are federally regulated. My opinion all or none period.

  • Speed limiters are a joke. Lots of companies don’t seem to have working ones because their trucks fly by like no one’s business.

  • If the speed limiter is supposed to be set at 105kmph why are they allowed 115kmph before being stopped and charged? This is pure BS. I don’t personally believe that the speed limiter should be on the trucks at all. The only speed limiter should be the driver and if the driver is doing more than 5 over the police should get off their lazy asses and do their jobs. And this should apply to the other vehicles on the road as well. Try driver up the 401 any day of the week and do the speed limit. you will get your doors blown off by almost every vehicle on the highway, including the police. These laws were put in place for a reason. I say it time for the police to do their job enforcing the law and keeping it themselves.

  • When a slow truck is trying to pass another slow truck, the driver of the slower truck should always let off the throttle and just let him pass. Then all is well again. Why prolong it?

  • I am trucker with 28 years if they wanted slow truckers down I don’t agree with it cause wrecks and many more things that could result in fatalities I think it’s going make it hard for average truckers and their companies to be able get frieght to and from across the country also if you look at how California and Washington state driver in cars drive from our point of view you first see how important it is to no allow us to be slowed down if intact maybe the cars all be slowed down to cause of accidents do u ever consider this as well so no I don’t think speed limiters is a cure for accidents and fatalities I think slowing cars and pickups and vans down would save more life’s and also add some form of safe bendiex to cars like u all did on 18 wheelers so when they decided to tail gate or jump in front of us they would automatically be done same as we are by making it show them that it will slow them down at same speed and it will teach them to keep safe distance between everyone not only 18 wheelers I don’t support the limiters I think cars all be slowed down and have same laws applied as we do Ty also need look at what it will do on eld logs to cause it will make it harder to transport frieght