A letter sent March 3 to the new Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg by the American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America has reignited a debate about requiring the use of speed limiters on large commercial trucks.
The letter, signed by ATA president and CEO Chris Spear and Road Safe America president and co-founder Steve Owings, notes the organizations’ support of the proposed Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019. If passed, the bill would require all new commercial motor vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with speed-limiting technology, that speed-limiting technology already installed in heavy-duty commercial vehicles be used, and that the speed be set at a maximum of 65 mph.
This support is a reversal of ATA’s stance on a 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking published by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
“Much has changed since 2016. Technological advancements have increasingly enabled motor carriers to adopt proven safety technologies, prompting ATA to support new and safer approaches to speed management,” the letter notes, pointing to motor carriers’ adoption of automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control systems on commercial vehicles.
“The integration of these devices with speed governing technology is showing enormous promise for transportation safety,” the letter continues. “Given the rapid development and widespread adoption of this integrated technology and the safety benefits they produce, we believe the issue of speed governing should be addressed with a 21st-century solution to ensure maximum adaptability.”
Just one day later, on March 4, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) responded, sending its own letter to Buttigieg decrying the mandated use of speed limiters.
OOIDA has long opposed efforts to mandate speed-limiting devices, saying the technology actually makes roads less safe, increasing traffic congestion and speed differentials between commercial and passenger vehicles and ultimately leading to more crashes.
In its March 4 letter, OOIDA cites studies showing the detrimental effects of speed limiters, including increased equipment cost and added stress on truck drivers who would potentially be forced to drive at a speed lower than the posted speed limit.
“Studies and research have already proven what we were all taught long ago in driver’s ed classes: Traffic is safest when vehicles travel at the same relative speed,” said Todd Spencer, president of OOIDA, in a prepared statement. “What the motoring public should know is that when they are stuck behind trucks on long stretches of highway, those trucks are limited by a device to a speed well under the posted limit. This proposal would make that the norm for every truck on the road.”
OOIDA’s letter calls the proposed legislation “nothing more than an attempt to eliminate one of the few economic advantages small-business truckers currently enjoy” — the ability to let drivers operate at posted speed limits, reducing the risk of hours-of-service violations by drivers attempting to make scheduled deliveries while traveling at slower speeds than surrounding traffic.
“Drivers hate speed limiters because of the operational and safety problems they create,” Spencer explained. “Large carriers would love nothing more than to ensure every truck and carrier is stuck with these devices, so their drivers stop fleeing for jobs at more trucker-friendly carriers.”
Spencer also noted that ATA has pushed for speed-limiter mandates in the past, only to oppose the legislation later.
“To be frank, it is difficult to keep track of what ATA and its members think about speed limiters,” Spencer said. “We would recommend that DOT hold off on a mandate, if only because we’re not sure where ATA will be on this by the time the agency could produce a proposal.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.