British Columbia says no to government-mandated speed limiters

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 1/10/2012

The provincial government in British Columbia will not be forcing trucks to have speed limiters any time soon.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom made that clear in a recent letter to the North American Truckers Guild, a group that advocates for trucking professionalism and safety in the Canadian west.

“Please be assured British Columbia is not planning to legislate the mandatory use of speed limiters,” Lekstrom wrote in the letter addressed to Truckers Guild President Larry Hall, dated Thursday, Jan. 5.

Lekstrom added that because British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan signed an agreement in July 2010 to harmonize regulations and eliminate interprovincial trade barriers, speed limiters will be a tall order in those provinces as well.

“This agreement is intended to eliminate trade, investment and labour mobility barriers between the three provinces. As such, potential regulatory changes, such as the mandatory use of speed limiters, would need to be considered within the context of British Columbia's commitment to the New West Partnership Trade Agreement,” Lekstrom wrote.

Speed limiters have been mandated by law in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec since January 2009. The laws there call for all heavy trucks 1995 and newer to be equipped with a working speed limiter to cap road speed at 105 kilometers per hour, which equates to about 65 mph.

British Columbia’s mountainous terrain is a natural regulator for trucks, Lekstrom wrote in the letter.

“An estimated 43 per cent of commercial vehicles operating within our province already have their speed managed voluntarily through speed limiters,” he wrote. “As well, Transport Canada has determined that the mountainous topography of our province contributes to 97.2 per cent of heavy trucks operating at speeds less than 105 km/h, compared to 40 to 70 percent for other provinces.”

Hall initiated the correspondence with Lekstrom last November to reiterate the Truckers Guild’s position on speed limiters and to advocate for driver training for professional truckers.

“The entire argument for speed limiters is based on conjecture and speculation that they will somehow increase road safety when in fact there is absolutely no supporting data for that argument,” Hall wrote in his outreach letter.

“It is our hope that you will join with us in establishing long term solutions to the problems that face the transportation industry rather than being directed to focus on a ‘symptom’ of a problem which is growing exponentially,” Hall wrote. “It is our opinion that a mandated professional driver education curriculum is the long term solution that will ultimately reduce the ever-increasing amount of regulation and policing required today.”

Opposition to a speed-limiter mandate is widespread among groups that represent drivers including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Owner-Operators Business Association of Canada.

Hall and other Truckers Guild board members are members of OOIDA and OBAC as well.

The battle continues
An Ontario-based trucker, OOIDA member Gene Michaud, recently launched a constitutional challenge of his province’s speed-limiter law in court. Oral arguments in that case are set to be heard in the coming weeks in the Ontario Court of Justice.

Michaud argues that the Ontario mandate acts as a barrier to his business in other provinces and in U.S. states, and feels that speed limiters create unsafe speed differentials among vehicles on major highways.

OOIDA continues to battle government-mandated speed limiters on both sides of the border, and that includes opposing a pair of petitions by the American Trucking Associations and safety groups that call for a U.S. mandate. A year ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a grant of petition outlining the agency’s intention to pursue a rulemaking.

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