Recently there has been increased attention on speed limiters on heavy trucks. Speed limiters are electronic systems in large trucks that limit the speed at which a vehicle can travel. The United States has recently proposed legislation that would require all large trucks to have speed regulators set at 65mph. Canada has been a subject in this debate because Ontario and Quebec have had this legislation in place for a few years now. Many believe that these speed limiters will help to regulate the truck drivers on the road and increase safety while others believe that increased training or tougher traffic laws for all vehicles should be the answer, not speed inhibitors.
In order to discern if this legislation has been successful many people have turned to Ontario and Quebec to see if any difference has been made since the introduction of this legislation. Transport Canada conducted a study of fleet operators and owner-operators that travel throughout Ontario and Quebec using speed limiters. One portion of their findings which has been the topic of most conversation in this debate is safety.
Many believe a strong benefit to speed limiters is the safety factor. Keeping large trucks at a slower, more manageable speed would help decrease safety risks for trucks and cars on the road. Transport Canada’s study supported this notion…to a certain extent. Their study indicated that when trucks stayed below 105 kph (the limited speed heavy trucks are allowed to travel in Ontario and Quebec) there was an increase in safety. Additionally, overall highway safety was at its highest when trucks were travelling an average of 90 kph. But this was only indicative of lighter traffic times. When traffic increased to its maximums and vehicles were more likely to merge, change lanes quickly, or slow down suddenly, there was no increase in safety due to speed limiters. Alternatively, there was a decrease in safety compared to non-speed limited vehicles.
This decrease in safety is the largest argument against speed limiters. The average speed limit of a vehicle on the highway exceeds 105 kph. This means that if trucks are not able to exceed 105 kph they will have a much harder time merging with traffic or changing lanes. This becomes a safety concern due to the change in speed between the non-speed limited traffic and the trucks. It has become customary for vehicles on the highway to travel at speeds upwards of 115 kph without attracting the attention of the police as long as they are driving with the flow of traffic.
This contributes to the decreased safety since heavy trucks can not drive at those speeds. Officers have begun to regulate truck speeds and give out tickets/fines to trucks driving over 105 kph. Al Goodhall wrote an excellent article for Truck News about speed regulators and he suggested increased traffic laws for all vehicles on the road. This would help to regulate all traffic and would remove the safety concerns based on vastly different car and trucks speeds.
One important factor to be considered is that right now many heavy trucks operate at a speed under 105 kph on a regular basis. The majority of drivers in Canada and the United States drive at this limit or slightly above, therefore, maintaining this speed (if regulated) would not be difficult for most drivers. Drivers who do drive above these speeds are often encouraged based on financial incentives. Drivers that are paid based on the amount of miles they travel benefit from increased speeds. Many people who are opposed to speed limiters offer an alternative solution of modifying incentives for drivers. If drivers were paid for the time they drive and for wait times (instead of miles) this would negate the need to speed in order to make sure they are making their salary.
As part of the Transport Canada study they interviewed fleet operators and owner-operators who have been driving with speed limiters. Most drivers interviewed said that their experience with the limiters did not create safety concerns. They claimed there was no disadvantage to them or their companies compared to fleet that is not speed controlled, and additionally, that the limiters could actually help them attract good drivers to their companies. Alternatively, the study did have a large portion of non-speed limited drivers (from both the US and from Western Canada) that said they would avoid certain jurisdictions if they felt their safety would be compromised as a result of other drivers on the road in Ontario and Quebec that have speed limiters.
While there are pros and cons of speed limiters, as of now it does not seem that speed limiters have had an adverse effect on drivers in Ontario and Canada. But as the US struggles to decide what is best for their drivers it is worth asking the question of whether or not increased driver training, proper driver payment, and stronger traffic laws could provide the same results as speed limiters without the negative car to truck speed differentials and safety concerns.
We would love to know what you think about speed limiters and their effect on the transportation industry. Leave us your comments below!