U.S, Canadian owner-operators oppose speed limiters in Ontario

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The Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association and The Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada have filed comments opposing mandated “speed limiters” on trucks operating in the Canadian Province of Ontario.

The Ontario Trucking Association recently asked the Ministry of Transportation to amend existing laws to require speed limiters, commonly known as “governors,” on commercial trucks manufactured after 1995 operating in Ontario. OTA would require the speed limiters to be programmed to restrict vehicles to a maximum speed of 65 mph (105 km/h).

OOIDA – with more than 133,000 members in the United States and Canada – has joined OBAC in opposing the proposed mandate because of the implication the proposal was headed for broad application. “They’re not just wanting this for Ontario, they’re wanting this for all of North America, including the U.S.,” says Jim Johnston, OOIDA president and chief executive officer. “The proposed speed limiters will have a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of professional drivers, as well as the safety of all highway users.”

Joanne Ritchie, OBAC’s executive director, agrees. “When you have cars going faster than trucks, that in fact creates unsafe conditions,” Ritchie says. “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.”

According to OOIDA and OBAC, studies show light vehicle drivers are the primary speeders on Canada’s highways. While OOIDA and OBAC do not condone unsafe driving habits and agree that excessive speeding is a legitimate subject of concern, the groups agree with highway safety engineers who believe that highways are safest when all vehicles are traveling at the same speed regardless of the speed limit.

“Many of OTA’s member motor carriers have adopted speed-limiter technology as the method of limiting the speeds traveled by their fleets of trucks, a decision that has apparently made it more difficult to keep and recruit drivers,” Johnston says. “However, it is not the proper role of government to solve this business dilemma for them by forcing speed limiters down everyone else’s throat so as not to lose their competitive edge.”

OOIDA and OBAC filed their comments in response to an open comment deadline set by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.

OTA believes that there are good environmental, safety and economic reasons for making the activation of speed limiters mandatory. The OTA proposal already has won support from groups like Pollution Probe, CAA Ontario, the Canada Safety Council, Traffic Injury Research Foundation, Smartrisk, RoadWatch, Markel Insurance Company of Canada, Old Republic Insurance Company of Canada, and the Transportation Health & Safety Association of Ontario.

At a press conference in Toronto last November, OTA President David Bradley said the OTA plan “demonstrates the industry’s commitment to ensure all trucks on the highways operate at a safe speed and that incidents of tailgating and improper lane changes are reduced.” In addition, he characterized the proposal “as perhaps the single most significant measure any industry has put on the table to conserve fuel and help the country meet its commitments under the Kyoto Accord.”

In developing its policy, OTA says it consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, including truck drivers, owner-operators, carriers, truck and engine manufacturers, insurance companies, enforcement and road safety agencies, government and the motoring public. OTA chairman Scott Smith, president of JD Smith & Sons of Toronto, oversaw a committee of 13 trucking company CEOs and senior executives charged with the responsibility of developing the OTA plan.

“While OTA’s commitment to safety is well-entrenched and great strides are being made to reduce the impact of trucks on the environment, making the activation of speed limiters mandatory will help us build an ever better trucking industry in Ontario,” Smith said last November.