Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A plea from a ‘speed-limited’ Canadian trucker to U.S. regulators

We spilled a lot of ink the past few weeks writing about NHTSA and FMCSA’s joint proposal to mandate speed limiters on heavy vehicles. Maybe you read some of it and maybe you were among the 6,500-plus who took the time to file comments on the proposal. 

Many of the comments submitted offered thoughtful and well-reasoned arguments against the proposal, which would cap the speed of all vehicles with a gross weight of 26,000 pounds or more at either 60, 65 or 68 mph.

A few days after the comment period closed, I got a phone call from an Ontario trucker named Craig Gable. As you may know, Ontario has a speed limiter mandate in place that restricts trucks to about 65 mph within the province. It is universally unpopular with drivers I’ve spoken to who are from the region or have to travel through it regularly. And Craig was no exception. However, his reasons for hating the mandate were new to me and worth passing on, potentially as an omen of things to come if the agencies decide to move forward with the rulemaking process.

We’ll let Craig, who hauls dry van in Canada and in the U.S., take it from here in his own words:

“Driving in Ontario, what I’m seeing is all of the trucks clogging the two right lanes in three-lane roads, all more or less going the same speed,” he said. “And what’s happening is cars trying to enter and exit the highway are encountering this two-lane wall of trucks, all going more or less the same speed. So they have to adopt more and more aggressive driving techniques to break through this wall. … Most cars when they see these wolf-packs of trucks, they just put the pedal down and they’re by them.”

The way Craig sees it, governing big trucks at a slower speed than passenger cars “actively grooms aggressive driving in small vehicles” something he doesn’t think anybody foresaw when the mandate was passed in Ontario, and something he’s afraid the regulatory agencies in the States are overlooking with their proposed nationwide mandate.

“Right now drivers in the States are downright friendly compared to drivers in Ontario,” he told me. “I just want to see the States avoid the catastrophe that Ontario and Quebec (which also has a speed limiter mandate) are playing with now.”

Craig’s solution to help open people’s eyes up to the dangers proposed by speed limiters is a simple one: Those in favor should spend some time in the jump seat of a governed truck and see for themselves.

“If you need to change someone’s mind, have them tag along with a trucker who’s going to run The 401 (highway) in Ontario,” he said. “They will see numerous examples of this at work. They’ll see what aggressive driving looks like.”