OOIDA joins opposition against speed limiters

| Thursday, December 08, 2005

A proposal to require speed limiters on semis is stirring up controversy in Canada , where the suggestion originated, and in the U.S. , where it could have an impact if it becomes law.

The Ontario Trucking Association, which represents many big motor carriers, proposed mandatory speed limiters and cited issues of safety and cost at a November convention and press conference. The OTA is lobbying the Ontario government to govern engine speed of big trucks at 105 km/h or 65 mph.

While the measure might appear on the surface to have a safety benefit, the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada says it’s flawed and is challenging the proposal and its contention about safety.

Slowing down does save money, OBAC executive director Joanne Ritchie told Land Line, but it puts trucks in an awkward position in relation to cars.

“When you get trucks in the left lane or right lane going slower, it creates all kinds of problems with cars weaving around them, trying to get on and off the interstates,” she says.

Should the Ontario government impose such legislation, all trucks traveling in the Canadian province – including those crossing the border from the U.S. – would be subject to speed limiters, commonly known as engine governors.

The U.S.-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association – which has more than 130,000 members in the U.S. and Canada – has joined the Canadian owner-operators in opposing the proposed mandate. OOIDA agrees with Ritchie’s group that speed limiters create unsafe road conditions.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said OTA is pumping up the driving public’s fear of big trucks to help sell the idea. He said professional drivers will resist because they know creating a speed differential is plainly a bad idea.

“In many areas, the speed limit is higher than the 65 mph governed speed that OTA wants,” Johnston said. “Think about it. It’s ridiculous.”

“What happens when the guy comes up on a truck that’s driving three-, four-, five miles an hour below the speed limit and has to pass that truck, and his maximum speed is the speed limit? And so he’s out there blocking traffic in another lane, or worse yet, he’s on a two-lane road and it’s taking an unusual amount of time to get around this other vehicle and it creates a significant safety hazard.”

Enforcement of the proposed mandate is also an issue with owner-operators.

“This is going to get the government involved in an area they have no business getting involved,” Johnston said. And that’s not all.

“One of my main objections to it is a group of motor carriers get together and decide that they personally would like their trucks limited at a specific speed, which they certainly have every right to do on their own,” Johnston said. “The problem is they want to force this down everyone else’s throat as well, so they don’t lose competitive advantage, either for available drivers, or for their ease of movement around the country.”

While the supporters of mandatory speed limiters believe the legislation will level the playing field, owner-operator organizations do not.

“I could see non-Ontario plated trucks being targeted to make sure they have their speed limiters on,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie and Johnston urge truckers in Ontario and other provinces and U.S. states to take the proposed mandate seriously.

“They’re not just wanting this for Ontario , they’re wanting this for all of North America, including the U.S. ,” Johnston said.

– David Tanner, staff writer
david_tanner@landlinemag.com

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