Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Speed doesn’t kill – but stupid government proposals can

The Ontario Minister of Transportation recently put on what we in the media call a dog and pony show.

He appeared at a truck show and “turned on” the speed limiter in a new truck. He was trying to demonstrate how easy it is to just turn a speed limiter on and off.

The demonstration was part of a publicity campaign to encourage Canadian lawmakers to mandate speed limiters to be activated on big trucks. Truthfully, it’s not that easy.

So, I think I need to address something about that idea.

The road speed limit is one of the settings on your ECM, and it’s a setting that must be programmed. That means you need a computer – and a trained mechanic – to set it or to adjust it. And that means money – real money – out of the trucker’s pocket.

Let me get this straight. If the mandate passes, then all truckers traveling in Ontario … and possibly Quebec … will have to activate a limited road speed on the truck’s ECM, right? And unless their carrier has set up a geo-fence around Ontario or Quebec via GPS, that means they’ll have to leave them on when they leave, right?

That’s way more complicated than just a switch on, switch off.

Plus, if it’s so easy, it flies right in the face of Ontario’s edict that the speed limiter be tamper-proof.

Why don’t they just enforce the speed limit laws? The reason they give is that they don’t have enough officers to do that.

Heck, even if they require the limiters, it won’t stop speeding. That’s because it’s not the trucks speeding up there. It’s the cars. Their own figures show that.

Even beyond that, the government’s own speed limiter proposal contains funding for dozens of additional enforcement officers – but not to enforce speed limits. These new officers would be added to enforce the speed limiter rule.

So why not just hire the officers to enforce the speed limits?

That’s because this isn’t really about slowing down traffic or stopping speeders. That was just an issue they used to generate support from the general public.

This issue has been pushed from Day 1 by the Ontario Trucking Association. The big carriers they represent use limiters. And like American carriers who use them, they have problems recruiting drivers, in part because many truckers don’t want to drive a limited truck.

So they figure if they force everyone to use limiters, it eliminates the possibility of driving a truck that’s not limited.

No government should force an unsafe road speed limit onto trucks just to give some of their corporate buddies a competitive advantage.