Controversy over speed governors
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has called on the Department of Transportation to limit the speed of new trucks to 68 mph. The ATA’s petition comes just weeks after a group of trucking companies issued an even tougher request for limiting truck speeds. In a petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Ad-ministration, the companies asked the agency to require all trucks—old and new—to be equipped with speed regulators set no higher than 68 mph. The ATA says it filed its petition to improve safety.
Not so fast, says the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which labeled truck speed-limit restrictions as “nothing more than an attempt to limit competition cloaked in safety propaganda.”
Devices that limit the speed at which trucks can travel have become common in new truck engines since the early 1990s, but no federal mandates require speed governors on commercial trucks. Needless to say, interested parties are lining up on both sides of the controversial issue.
“Moving the product contained in those vehicles is of vital importance,” says ATA CEO Bill Graves. “But of utmost importance is moving the product safely. This is something we’re proud to lead on.” Not only would speed-governed trucks improve the safety of the nation’s highways, says the ATA, but trucking companies would also enjoy fuel and maintenance cost savings, and congestion would be reduced due to fewer accidents.
Nonsense, says OOIDA, contending that the driving force behind the proposal is money and has nothing to do with safety. “A critical fact totally ignored by these petitions is that reduced speed promotes safety only if all vehicles are moving at those same reduced speeds,” says Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “Ironically, should these petitions come to fruition, America’s roads will become much more dangerous to motorists and truckers alike.”
OOIDA notes that in addition to needing to be able to drive with the flow of traffic, there are times when a truck driver would need to call on additional speeds to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
In letters to DOT and FMCSA officials, Jim Johnson, president of OOIDA, wrote that, “Road design, traffic congestion and weather can render any rate of speed excessive and unsafe. None of the studies cited by ATA identify 68 miles per hour as the tipping point between safe and unsafe speeds.”
Rather than looking to speed limiters on trucks, OOIDA urged the DOT to seek better training for drivers, reiterating its long-held position that new truck drivers simply are not trained properly to operate trucks on different road types in different traffic and weather conditions. OOIDA also encouraged the DOT to examine the effect of driver pay on performance, adding that increased economic pressures are forcing drivers to drive more miles or take more loads in a shorter period of time.
Sources: ATA, OOIDA, Roemer Report (used with permission)