The BC Trucking Association (BCTA) predicts that most trucking companies are unlikely to allow higher speeds among their fleets and will stick to current best practices regarding safety and fuel efficiency despite changes to posted speed limits announced by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as a result of its Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review.
Louise Yako, BCTA President & CEO, notes that these trucking companies compete by offering high standards for service and efficiency that incorporate safety measures into day-to-day practices. Many cultivate a “safety culture” for their employees and customers by, for example, adopting speed policies and/or using engine speed control devices.
“When we surveyed our truck and motor coach members regarding the speed review, they indicated there was no appetite for higher speed limits,” Ms. Yako says. “Carrying freight or passengers from one place to another quickly is important, but getting them there safely is more important. For the road transportation industry, efficiency is about results, factoring in the safety of drivers and others, what they’re carrying, and their equipment.”
Trucking companies are also aware that operating at higher speeds means greater fuel consumption and more greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, Natural Resources Canada estimates that a heavy commercial vehicle travelling at 120 km/h can consume up to 39 percent more fuel than if it were travelling at 90 km/h, with an accompanying increase in emissions.
Although BCTA recognizes that the provincial government has a high regard for road safety and the environment, the association opposed increasing speed limits based on concerns expressed by members about increased crash risk when commercial and passenger vehicles are travelling at different speeds and increased stopping distances at higher speeds, especially in poor road conditions.
For example, the stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer combination travelling on dry pavement at 105 km/h is 68 percent higher than at 90 km/h, which means it will take 180 metres to come to a stop, compared to 107. Especially as speed limits increase, other drivers need to take care not to do anything that might require a truck to take evasive action or make an emergency stop.
With higher speed limits, driving to conditions becomes even more important. BCTA therefore welcomes the ministry’s plan to pilot variable speed signs for better guidance in severe winter conditions on high-volume routes, including the Coquihalla between Hope and the old toll booth and Highway 1 between Sicamous and Revelstoke. Commercial vehicles run according to schedules that require them to operate year-round on these routes, often in difficult driving conditions.
“Safety is our top priority,” says Ms. Yako. “We understand that in deciding to increase speed limits on selected rural highways, the ministry carefully considered safety performance, current travel speeds, road engineering and comments from the public. But, people can make mistakes and use poor judgment. To ensure everyone stays safe, drivers of passenger cars need to understand how to share the road with heavy commercial vehicles.”
As the new speed limits come into force, BCTA encourages all drivers to drive with care, reduce their speeds in wet and winter conditions, and always give commercial vehicles room to operate safely.
In Ontario, thanks to the efforts of the Ontario Trucking Association, trucks are required to have speed limiters set no more than 105 km/h.