Anyone who has ever driven on a North American highway can tell you just how prevalent the semi-trailer transport truck is. These 18-wheeled beasts are a staple of our roadways and can be seen on every piece of asphalt, at any time of the year, and in all kinds of weather. Nothing slows these guys down – except for a few pieces of simple legislation regarding the maximum allowable speed they are allowed to drive. But even the truckers themselves believe this is a good thing because, in the end, it makes our highways a much safer place to drive.
The first time I had ever heard about mandatory speed limiters in semi-trailers was a few years ago. I was moving across the country and had to get a boat moved too. Now, you can move a boat yourself by towing it, or you can throw it on a train, but I didn’t have a car with a big enough engine to move my boat. Not only would I not be able to tow it across the country, but I wouldn’t be able to get it to the train either. So I went through a local trucking company. They were cheaper than the train and would take me from point A to point B with no more questions asked.
When the truck arrived at the new place, with the boat strapped down on the flatbed, I got a chance to chat with the driver. I had lots of questions about these ever-present transporters and he was ready and willing to talk.
“I don’t want to sound like a jerk,” I said, “but why do you guys pass each other so slowly on the highways?”
The driver looked at me and laughed. He knew exactly what I was talking about.
“The trucks aren’t allowed to go faster than 105 km/h,” he said. “A few years back the governments of Ontario and Quebec both created laws that make all transport trucks use electronic speed limiters.”
“So how can you pass one another if your speeds are limited?”
“Well, some trucks are carrying more weight so they go slower. The guys you see passing are going as fast as they can, but that’s still only 105. Time is money in the trucks so we have to pass and go as fast as we can.”
“If time is so valuable isn’t it a bad thing that the government made speed limiters mandatory?” I asked.
“Actually, it’s been a really good thing. It keeps us driving more cautiously, its better when it comes to fuel economy and also reduces our impact on the environment. It is actually saving money for our industry and makes the highways a whole lot safer. Without the speed limiters there were lots of drivers that were way too reckless – the accidents alone cost owners lots of money and some people their lives. Overall, the law has been a great thing for us truckers.”
As it turns out, it has worked so well in Europe and Canada that the American Trucking Association and Road Safe America have been lobbying the American government to institute similar laws. Mandatory speed limiters are just one example of how a bureaucratic measure can have a real effect on the overall safety of our highways, and knowing about them can help keep your blood pressure lower when transport trucks are passing each other, blocking the fast lane, on the highways.