Speed Limiters

This archived article is from January 2006. Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate, please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.

The Canada Safety Council supports a proposal to mandate speed limiters on trucks set to a maximum speed of 105 km/h.

A speed limiter, sometimes called a governor, is a built-in microchip that allows a truck engine’s top speed to be preset. Trucks built in the last decade come equipped with this technology. Nonetheless, regulation would ensure all trucks operate at a safe speed. That would reduce highway collisions related to tailgating and improper lane changes.

In addition there are major environmental advantages. The measure will conserve fuel and help Canada meet its commitments under the Kyoto Accord.

Ontario Takes the Lead

In November 2005, the Ontario Trucking Association asked the provincial government to require all trucks that operate into, out of and within Ontario to activate the speed limiters and to set the highest speed a truck can go to no more than 105 km/h.

The environmental, safety and economic benefits of mandating the activation of speed limiters at a maximum speed of 105 km/h include:

  • Fuel savings of up to 10,500 litres of diesel fuel per year for a typical tractor-trailer unit — or 50 million litres in total for all such trucks in Ontario. At today’s diesel prices, this would equate to annual savings of about $ 8,400 per truck.*
  • A reduction of as much as140 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.*
  • Less severe car-truck crashes.
  • Less tailgating and improper lane changes by trucks.
  • A “cushion” would still exist to allow trucks to pass slower moving vehicles, avoiding “elephant races” (long stretches of trucks operating side by side).
  • Less stress on truck drivers to feel pressured to speed in order to make deliveries.
  • Improved tire and brake wear.

Why 105 km/h?

Recognizing the speed limit on Ontario's major highways is 100 km/h, the proposal is to set speed limiters at no more than 105 km/h. The cruise speed for most trucks will be set at no more than 100 kph, but a cushion of up to 5 kph will be allowed on the “pedal” speed to enable trucks to pass slower moving vehicles (avoiding long periods where trucks operate side-by-side called “elephant races”) and to make other precautionary manoeuvres as required.

OTA tried to find a balance between the effective speed on highways and a responsible speed cap for trucks. Because the trucking industry crosses borders, it must be kept in mind there are many jurisdictions which have speed limits in excess of 100 km/h. The proposed cap will enable Ontario trucks to operate and compete in jurisdictions with higher speed limits. Several maximum governed speeds were reviewed before choosing 105 km/h. Extensive consultation was conducted with truck drivers, truck fleet owners, road safety experts, law enforcement, engine and truck manufacturers, and the insurance industry.

Put the brakes on speeding

Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to steer safely around curves or objects in the roadway, extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle and increases the distance that a vehicle travels while the driver reacts to a dangerous situation.

The speed of trucks plays a role in the severity of crashes and the incidence of fatalities in those involving large trucks. The probability of injury, and the severity of injuries in a crash, increase exponentially with vehicle speed. The chances of being killed in a vehicle traveling at 120 km/h are four times higher than at 100 km/h.

Truck drivers are less likely than other drivers to operate at excessive speed. From small, sporty cars to trucks and SUVs, passenger vehicles on Canada’s roads are capable of very high speeds. Police regularly nab irresponsible drivers for going twice the posted speed limit.

Speeding is implicated in 17 per cent of this country’s road fatalities. Young drivers, especially young males, are the most likely to be involved in speed-related crashes. Under Road Safety Vision 2010, a task force is looking at ways to prevent speed-related deaths and injuries.

On the engineering front, electronic enforcement (photo radar) offers an effective deterrent to speeding. Is it also possible to install speed limiters in cars, following the lead of the trucking industry?

Transport Canada is currently pilot testing devices that try to stop drivers from breaking the speed limit. One device uses GPS technology and a digital speed limit map. When the driver passes the posted speed limit, the device makes it difficult to press the accelerator. Another GPS-based device is mounted on the dashboard. It warns drivers with a voice alarm and a light when the vehicle starts to go too fast.