Learning from Others: An International Study on Heavy Truck Speed Limiters

TP14810 E

Executive Summary

In 2006, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) called on the federal and provincial governments to mandate the activation of electronic speed limiters on all heavy trucks operating into or through Canada at no more than 105 km/h. A Discussion Paper, prepared as a preliminary assessment of speed limiters, noted possible benefits to the environment from reduced fuel consumption and potential highway safety benefits from slowing down the heavy trucks.

Following this, the CTA proposal was discussed at the Council of Deputy Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety (CODMT). Deputies noted that further analysis was necessary to better understand the implications of a speed limiter requirement, particularly the potential impact on highway safety and small business. Federal, provincial and territorial deputy ministers agreed to work together to assess the outstanding issues and Transport Canada offered to lead the effort.

On behalf of the provinces and territories, Transport Canada has conducted a number of studies to examine the feasibility of mandating truck speed limiters. These studies included traffic modelling to better understand the safety impact from differential car-truck speeds on highways, quantifying the environmental benefits from fuel savings and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and an assessment of the trade and competitiveness impacts of a speed limiter mandate in both the Canadian and North American context. This report, an international assessment of other countries with speed limiter requirements in place, is part of the work that has been conducted by Transport Canada.

The aim of the international assessment is to document the experiences of three participating jurisdictions, which have had mandated heavy vehicle speed limiters for more than 10 years, and to draw parallels with the Canadian context, highlighting issues, concerns, and best practises that could inform policy decisions with respect to the Canadian speed limiter requirement.

At the time of writing this report, 33 countries were found to have heavy vehicle speed limiter legislation, most of which, like the United Kingdom and Sweden, are European Union member states, obliged by international law to implement European Commission legislation, such as the directives relating to speed limiters. Other countries with speed limiter legislation include Japan, Zambia, and most recently, India, which is implementing speed limiter regulations for Karnataka state and is considering a nation-wide speed limiter policy. See Appendix B for a list of known jurisdictions with mandated speed limiters and details of their legislation.

Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom were selected for the international assessment. Each participating jurisdiction's speed limiter legislation, national compliance approach, enforcement methods/regime, measures of effectiveness, and summary views from road transport stakeholders was documented.

The main conclusions from the report include the following:

Assessment of Speed Limiters

The European Commission and Australia implemented speed limiter legislation based on concerns over road safety due to a high incidence of accidents involving heavy trucks, and additionally, for the EC, based on concerns over the environmental impact of fuel emissions due to heavy vehicle speeding. In both cases, no research or empirical studies were done prior to enacting the legislation to justify the implementation of the speed limiter requirement.

Ten years later, no empirical studies have been done in any participating jurisdictions to directly link the use of speed limiters with improvements in road safety. Additionally, there is a lack of research on the safety impacts of truck-car speed differentials due to speed-limited trucks. It is, therefore, difficult to predict the potential road safety impacts of a speed limiter mandate in Canada.

Benefits of Legislating Speed Limiters

Speed limiters are generally believed to have had a positive impact on road safety and have contributed to a decrease in accidents involving heavy vehicles. In the U.K., for instance, heavy vehicle accidents have dropped by 26% since speed limiter legislation was enacted in 1992.

Other positive benefits from the enactment of speed limiter legislation include lower fuel consumption (from 3-11%), lower maintenance costs (tires, brakes, engine) and reduced insurance premiums, according to an assessment done by the European Commission.

Challenges as a Result of Legislation

Road safety concerns as a result of the speed limiter requirement have been noted by U.K. and Swedish officials, particularly the problem of speed-limited trucks overtaking (passing) each other on divided highways, causing traffic backlog. Other road safety issues identified in the U.K. include convoys of trucks blocking the on and off-ramps on highways. Under U.K. law, all speed-limited trucks are relegated to the inside lanes on highways of three or more lanes.

Compliance and enforcement issues center around the high incidence of tampering, problems with testing equipment, and lack of enforcement personnel to verify speed limiter compliance. Tampering has been identified by all participating jurisdictions as a challenge to the efficacy and relevance of speed limiter legislation. Drivers tamper with their limiters to increase the maximum speed of their vehicles, thus increasing their competitive advantage. In Australia, for instance, 10-30% of heavy vehicles are estimated to have tampered speed limiters. The other two jurisdictions, the U.K. and Sweden, concede that tampering is an issue but have not as yet kept statistics on speed limiter compliance.

Finding compliance testing equipment to verify speed limiter settings is a challenge, particularly in European member states. The type of testing device used in both Sweden and the U.K. which accesses the speed limiter setting via the analogue tachograph will shortly become obsolete as trucks are fitted with digital tachographs, which are now required by European law (for all new trucks registered in 2006). No new devices have been sourced to replace them.

The necessity of having sufficient enforcement personnel to verify speed limiter compliance is a key finding in this report. In Sweden, for example, only 200 officers specialize in heavy vehicle enforcement, conducting roadside inspections to check for safety standards such as speed limiters. The numbers of dedicated heavy vehicle officers are similarly low for Australia and the U.K. The importance of having sufficient enforcement personnel to check for compliance was also identified by international stakeholders in the EC report analyzing the effectiveness of the speed limiter mandate.

Best Practices and New Technologies

Developing a national regulatory approach to speed limiter compliance to ensure consistent application of the policy is viewed as a key element to success. Australia, for example, has made great strides in developing national policies to combat such issues as heavy vehicle speeding through their innovative chain of responsibility provisions. Swedish officials have also indicated the importance of a consistent approach to speed limiter compliance.

In terms of compliance and enforcement strategies, police officials in Australia and the U.K. have espoused the benefits of using intelligence-gathering techniques to target high-risk drivers/operators for roadside inspections. They believe that this is an extremely effective method resulting in a significant number of offenders being pulled off the road for speed limiter non-compliance.

International jurisdictions are continuing to explore other programs and technologies as a means of dealing with heavy vehicle speed compliance. Intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) technology has been tested in Australia, Sweden, and the U.K. as a more sophisticated alternative to simple speed regulating devices such as speed limiters. No participating jurisdictions have legislated the use of ISA systems in any vehicle type as of yet. In addition, accreditation schemes in Australia, which require participants to demonstrate safe business practices in exchange for regulatory concessions, have proven effective in reducing accident rates for participating operators.