British Columbia could soon be among the growing list of Canadian provinces to mandate the use of speed limiters on commercial vehicles.
On April 5, Rob Fleming, B.C. minister of transportation and infrastructure, introduced Bill 23, which would modify the province’s Motor Vehicle Act. In addition to the mandatory use of speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks, the proposed legislation would establish “amendments to create a safer environment for vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, and supports the shift to increased active transportation.”
According to a news release from Fleming’s office, the proposed amendments in Bill 23 include these goals:
- Establish a new vulnerable road-user framework that requires drivers to take precautions when pedestrians and cyclists are using a roadway.
- Implement a 1-meter minimum safe-passing distance and a 3-meter minimum following distance that drivers of motor vehicles must observe when sharing roadways with pedestrians, cyclists, e-bikes and other similar devices.
- Require the use of speed-limiter equipment to regulate the maximum speed of heavy-duty commercial vehicles, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing speed-related crashes, and making it safer for all road users.
- Expand the province’s authority to implement more pilot projects, including enabling provincewide pilot projects and broader regulation-making authority to test safe, new and emerging transportation technologies and road safety policies.
“This legislation requires drivers to use appropriate care around pedestrians and cyclists, supports enforcement of regulations, and sets a strong foundation for testing and evaluating new technology and policies as we shift to a net-zero future in B.C.,” Fleming said in a statement.
If approved, British Columbia would join Ontario and Quebec as the country’s third province to mandate the use of speed limiters. In both of those provinces, speeds for commercial trucks are capped at 105 km/h, around 65 mph.
The ministry said that penalties will be in place for drivers who do not activate the speed limiter in their vehicle, do not set the limiter to the prescribed speed, or tamper with or modify the device.
While the bill cites roadway safety as a motivating factor for the use of speed limiters, it also asserts their use will result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by commercial vehicles in the province. In fact, many of the amendments in the package are intended to help reach emission reduction targets set forth by the province’s CleanBC: Roadmap to 2030.
According to that report, transportation is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for approximately 40% of the annual total in British Columbia. The plan called for the province to reduce that number to 32% by 2030.
While reaching the reduction targets set forth by CleanBC will require an “all hands on deck” approach, it’s fair to question how much of an impact speed limiters on commercial vehicles would have on the overall greenhouse gas emissions produced. According to data from Metro Vancouver, heavy commercial vehicles produce only 5% of all greenhouse gas and smog emissions in B.C.’s Metro Vancouver region.
Despite any concerns over the efficacy of speed limiters in terms of emissions reduction, the British Columbia Trucking Association applauded the introduction of the bill for its diligence to roadway safety.
“The BCTA is pleased to see the province take action today to address safety concerns while providing more pathways to adopting advancing transportation technologies,” BCTA President and CEO Dave Earle said in a statement. “We’ve advocated for speed limiters on heavy-duty commercial vehicles because the data shows they dramatically reduce the number of at-fault speed-related accidents. Additionally, speed limiters help green our sector by curbing fuel consumption and emissions generated by trucks traveling at high speeds. These amendments will benefit the trucking industry and British Columbians as a whole.”
This support should come as no surprise, as the BCTA has been a vocal proponent of speed limiters for nearly two decades.
In 2019, as British Columbia mulled over their incoming electronic logging device mandate, the group urged lawmakers to require the use of speed limiters alongside ELDs. According to the organization, the reason for the tandem use of ELDs and speed limiters would be “to prevent any increase in speeding by some commercial drivers in reaction to more precise hours-of-service recordkeeping by ELDs.”
As British Columbia prepares to become the third province to require speed limiters on commercial trucks, the debate over their use in the United States continues to be a heated debate. In April of last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a notice of intent announcing plans to move forward with the controversial rulemaking. Since then, thousands of comments have poured into the Federal Register – most of which are opposed to the use of speed limiters.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is among those opposed to a speed limiter mandate. According to the Association, limiting the speeds for commercial vehicles would create dangerous speed differentials and have an overall negative impact on roadway safety.
“Studies and research have already proven what we were all taught long ago in driver’s ed classes, that traffic is safest when vehicles all travel at the same relative speed,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “Limiting trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles which can lead to more crashes.” LL