Studies shape industry opinions about speed limiters

| 1/23/2006

There is little doubt that most of the media focus in Canada has been on the grueling political campaigns that closed on Election Day, Monday, Jan. 23.

But as the end of January approaches, the eyes of professional truckers continue to be on the issue of mandatory speed limiters in Ontario .

Not only are Canadian truckers interested in what the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario will say about a proposed mandatory setting of engine governors at 105 kilometers per mile – about 65 mph – all of North America’s truckers have a stake in the outcome.

MTO is poised to brief Minister of Transportation Harinder Takhar soon. Early reports said the briefing would happen by the end of January, following a public comment period at the end of 2005. The latest word from MTO is the briefing will happen soon, but no exact date has been announced.

The Ontario Trucking Association, which represents many of the province’s largest motor carriers, asked the government mandate speed limiters with the 65 mph cap. Many of the motor carriers already set their engine governors at 65 mph voluntarily, and a government mandate is one way to level the field of competition with owner-operators and small-business truckers.

The benefits, which professional associations such as OOIDA are questioning, are OTA’s claims of safer roads, less-severe accidents, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced wear and tear on trucks and tires.

OOIDA and the Owner-Operators’ Business Association of Canada have both submitted formal oppositions against the proposal, not because they have any dispute with findings about greenhouse gas emissions or wear and tear. Those studies are not in dispute. The opposition comes with the OTA claims about safety.

There are several studies out there, and they don’t always show the same results.

With traffic on interstates and major Canadian highways flowing faster than 65 mph, trucks with engine governors set at that limit are more likely to be encountered from behind by faster vehicles, a University of Arkansas study has shown.

The Canadian Automobile Association in Ontario , the province’s largest insurer, has come out in favor of mandatory speed limiters, but even that association has conceded a few points in a 1991 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Our position on that is, while there’s clearly no evidence this is going to increase or decrease the number of accidents, it shows there’s going to be a change in the nature of accidents,” CAA spokesman Kris Barnier told Land Line. “You see an increase of cars in the back of trucks, and you see a decrease in the number of trucks in the back of cars.”

CAA’s support for speed limiters comes from an environmental angle, Barnier said, since one of CAA’s main missions is for protecting the global climate.

“From an environmental perspective, it’s a good thing,” he said.

Barnier said a number of CAA members surveyed said their fear of big trucks increased when the trucks passed them.

OTA President and CEO David Bradley helped draw the attention of the mainstream media last week, saying the speed-limiter proposal was gaining momentum.

Bradley, who is also president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said motor-carrier associations in most Canadian provinces support mandatory engine governors.

david_tanner@landlinemag.com