Tuesday, November 13, 2007

new 105 km/h speed limit for trucks?

I sent this open letter to the Minister of Transportation and the Prime Minister of Ontario.

I think this is a relevant issue that will affect us all every day.

The government is to promote truck-related accidents?

I hear this more often: the government is thinking to limit the speed of heavy vehicles to 105 km/h. I challenge that that will actually cause more accidents, fatal ones too, due to a serious increase in truck traffic as well as the number of car-truck incidents.

You surely know that most studies as well as common sense indicates that what causes collisions is not that much the absolute speed, but the difference in speed between vehicles. If three lanes of traffic are flowing down any 400 series at 120-130 km/h, there will be no accidents, no tailgating, no unsafe lane changes, nothing but a reasonably safe and steady flow of commuter cars.

Assume now that those three or four lanes of packed traffic encounter a 50 ton, 18-wheeled speed hump doing 100 km/h down the middle. I have witnessed this first hand and I can tell you that you’ll see traffic scatter, unsafe speed and lane changes, heavy braking on all lanes, nothing safe, really! And this would happen every day, everywhere on our major highways!

Now I see Quebec politicians proposing this as a law. I see the Canada Safety Council supporting this 105 km/h limit, stating that it will “reduce highway collisions related to tailgating and improper lane changes”, which are exactly the effects I witnessed first hand. Several truck collisions I heard of recently in the GTA were caused by cars cutting them off, another incident that will happen more frequently, given increased driver frustration and road-rage incidents.

When we know the actual mean traffic speeds on the 400 series to be between 120-130 km/h especially outside the city, why on earth would it be safer to limit trucks to well below these speeds? Mind you, trucks do need to cross 3 or 7 lanes of traffic, even from left to right, to take certain exits or ramps.

One of jokes I like most is about the plans, in Britain, to start driving on the right side of the road: the first day they’d switch the trucks and the second day the rest of the vehicles. Amusing, but I used to think it is an aberration…until now, that is!

I urge you to let citizens focus on driving rather than dodging 18 wheelers. While a limit might make sense, 115 km/h is a perhaps manageable difference of only 10 km/h versus actual traffic speeds and overall a lot more safe and flexible while rooting out the inconsiderate speed daemons.

In terms of traffic, it seems to me that merchandise will move 10% slower at 105 km/h vs. 115 km/h, meaning that at any point in time, there will be 10% less trucks available to load/unload (the trucks being on the road for 10% more time than before); less merchandise will reach its destination in any given day. Since people will not suddenly eat 10% less food nor buy 10% less toys, it will require the addition of 10% more trucks, with additional costs, insurance, diesel, pollution etc. Increasing truck traffic by 20% increases the truck-related accidents by the same 20% or more. (The same amount of trucks is on the road for 10% more time, plus the new 10% more trucks needed, equals 20% increase in truck traffic on our roads, to move the same volume).

P.S. – On the speed limits.

Before you reply that most citizens have no business exceeding the speed limits you so vigorously enforce, this is what they actually do and, by all accepted principles of law except Ontario’s traffic laws, what most people do defines the norm.

The reason behind this105 km/h figure is the 100 km/h speed limit on our major highways. I have a hard time seeing what that limit has to do with actual traffic speeds, other than generate “government revenue” and put the people that actually observe it at risk. Study after study shows that drivers routinely ignore abnormally low speed limits and even that variations in speed limits (either up or down) do not cause significant changes in actual traffic speeds! People, on the average, drive with the speed they consider safe and reasonable for different sections of the road! Assuming anything else leads to the conclusion that the citizens of this country are either suicidal, bent on killing or impaired in some other ways, since most drive daily.