Slow Burn
Compliance with speed-limiter reg costs truckers time, money and aggravation

By David Tanner
staff writer


Dorothy Sanderson was hesitant about having someone alter the computerized speed settings of her two Volvo trucks. She was a holdout until recently, waiting for hard enforcement of the speed-limiter law in Ontario to begin July 1.

But because her carrier threatened to withhold loads until she signed a form indicating her speed setting was within the parameters of the provincial law, Dorothy gave in and went to the shop.

The laws in Ontario and neighboring Quebec require a computerized speed limiter to be activated at or below 105 km/h, or 65 mph, on all trucks 1995 and newer with a gross weight exceeding 26,000 pounds, regardless of where they are base-plated.

Owner-operators and the groups that represent them – the U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada – have opposed the laws since day one because of the effects on trade, freight and highway safety.

Dorothy, who is a member of both associations, thought sidelining one of her trucks on a Monday in mid-April would be the worst that could happen. She was wrong.

The technician charged $190 for the work, a slightly higher than average rate for a speed-limiter job. The tech stated in the invoice that the program containing the speed setting was password protected. He “had to zap EECU,” but it checked out OK according to the invoice.

But things weren’t OK. Dorothy’s truck wouldn’t start, causing her to miss out on a load the following day.

“The garages apparently have computer programs from the different manufacturers to do the speed limiters,” Dorothy told Land Line.

“They tried to use an expired program on my truck engine. Since it had already been set up, whoever set it up password protected it, the engine, fuel, speed. Things like that.”

Dorothy claims the use of outdated software during the “zap” damaged something in the computer.

Another day came and went without success. Nearly $450 and three days after the ordeal began, Dorothy was able to get her truck back on the road.

With 30 years experience in trucking, Dorothy doesn’t like when she has to miss the opportunity to haul for any reason.

“I hold the Ontario government at fault for it,” she said. “If it weren’t for their stupidity, it would have never happened,” she said. “Freight is very few and far between right now.”

A provincial transportation official said compliance with the law has reached more than 90 percent from data collected on the 400-series highways.

Spokesman Bob Nichols said highway police and ministry compliance officers are equipped with devices to access truck computers and check for speed limiters. He insists that password-protected material will stay protected during an inspection.

“This enforcement technology does not interact with the vehicle’s ECM and makes it impossible for any of the truck’s settings to be changed,” Nichols told Land Line.

That doesn’t help Dorothy in her situation. Compliance with the Ontario law has given her more than one headache.

Her second truck, which has never had a problem – mechanical or electrical – is also governed at 65 mph.

The problem occurs when traveling in U.S. states in which the posted speed limit is 70 or 75 mph in some places.

 “My husband and son-in-law teamed down to Texas in the 2000 Volvo,” she said. “That truck is limited. They were repeatedly told to go back where they came from because they were blocking traffic.”

She believes it is a sign of things to come in the future.

 “In the summer, it’s going to be worse. In Ontario, it’s going to be worse.” LL