The introduction of Bill 41 in Ontario, which would require all large trucks operating in the province to have speed-limiters installed, has garnered a large reaction from the trucking community who are unsure if this will help or hurt safety and the bottom line of fleets in the region.
The bill would set the maximum truck operating speed in Ontario to 105 km per hour (65 mph) and follows a similar bill introduced in Quebec that would also limit trucks to 105 km per hour. Laws on speed-limiters are currently on the books in 33 nations, including Japan, India, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
A collection of studies commissioned by Transport Canada (TC) on behalf of the Councils of Deputy Ministers / Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety (CODMT/COMT) have assessed the safety implications of speed limiters and claim that reducing speed does improve safety—in some cases.
According to TC, the study used a microscopic traffic simulation model that provides accurate estimates of safety performance and how performance is affected by different speed control strategies in various traffic scenarios.
“The introduction of speed limiters set at 105 km/h (commensurate with Ontario and Quebec regulations) increases safety in the uncongested region of traffic flow for all geometric configurations, especially in the straight segment,” the report stated. “As maximum speed is set at 110 km/h the safety gains with the introduction of mandatory limiters become less prominent. This result holds for the uncongested region of traffic flow. The maximum safety gains were obtained when the maximum control speed was set at 90 km/h for uncongested traffic volumes.”
However, it is a different story when congestion is increased, according to TC. “As volume and percentage of trucks are increased the safety gains associated with mandatory limiters set at 105 km/h become less pronounced,” the report said. “As the volume is set close to capacity (2000 vehicles per hour per lane) more vehicle interactions take place and this leads to a reduction in safety, especially for those segments with increased merging and lane-change activity, such as on and off ramp segments. In these instances the introduction of truck speed limiters can actually reduce the level of safety when compared to the non limiter case.”
Many fleets have independently adopted speed limiters due to the fuel savings involved when trucks drive slower. According to TC, 60% of heavy truck fleets in the United States are already speed-limited, representing 77% of trucks on the road, and Canada is estimated to have similar percentages of speed-limited trucks.
The Ontario Trucking Association (OTA)/ Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has sought to mandate speed-limiters at 105 km/h, while the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) have pushed for a 68 mph limit. According to TC, changing settings on speed limiters only takes five to ten minutes with the necessary tools, which can cost in the range of $1,000 to $2,000.
In response to the proposed Ontario bill, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has announced it will file a formal Notice of Intent to challenge the legality of the legislation as soon as it is officially implemented.
“We are vigorously pursuing all appropriate legal remedies to protect the right of truckers, big and small, to compete fairly and safely across international and provincial borders,” said Rick Craig, director of regulatory affairs for OOIDA.
According to OOIDA, the new law would impede interprovincial and international trade by restricting access to trucks that do not have mandated speed-limiting restrictions, citing possible North American Free Trade Agreement and constitutional violations to the bill.
“We…made bullet-proof arguments addressing the safety, environmental and trade implications of speed limiter legislation,” Craig said. “OOIDA has always known the initiative was never about safety or environment, but instead about limiting extraprovincial competition in favor of big business trucking interests in Ontario.”