February 28, 2007 8:00 AM, EST

Letter to the Editor: Speed Limiters

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On Oct. 20, American Trucking Associations, in conjunction with “Road Safe America,” a group of nine trucking companies, submitted a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.The petition was to initiate rulemaking to require manufacturers to install a device limiting the speed of trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings greater than 26,000 pounds to no more than 68 mph. (Click here for previous coverage.)ATA contends that reducing speed-related crashes involving trucks is critical to the safety mission of both NHTSA and FMCSA, and that these new requirements are necessary in order to reduce the number and severity of crashes involving large trucks. Among other sources, ATA cites as its authority the Large Truck Crash Causation Study performed by NHTSA and FMCSA.According to the Federal Register, the number of large trucks (GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds) involved in fatal and injury crashes has remained relatively steady from 1995 to 2005, and the corresponding involvement rates (rate per 100,000 registered vehicles and rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled), have steadily decreased during that time period. In the latest data available, the vehicle involvement rates for large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2004 were near the record lows established in 2002, and the vehicle involvement rates for large trucks involved in injury crashes established new lows by a significant margin.In a report to Congress, NHTSA concluded that the safety or crash-reduction benefits that might be obtained from truck speed-limiting devices were not sufficient to justify mandating the devices. The conclusion was based on the determination that:n Speed-limiting devices would have no effect on vehicle speed or crash likelihood at travel speeds below their set speed, e.g., 70 mph.n The vast majority of truck crashes occur on roadways with a speed limit of 65 mph or less.n Police crash-report data indicate that very few truck crashes (about 0.2%) occur at estimated truck travel speeds in excess of 70 mph.Two-tenths of 1% of truck crashes occur at speeds above 70 mph. That means 99.8% occur at speeds below 70 mph. Limiting speed to 68 mph would address 2/10 of 1% of the safety issue and leave 99.8% of the safety issue on the table. That’s ludicrous.ATA stated in its petition, “It is impossible to determine the actual number of potential crashes that might be avoided by limiting top truck speed to 68 mph.” May I suggest that not the least of the reasons is that the data do not support their petition? May I also suggest that safety has nothing to do with their petition?Because some large carriers have chosen to limit the speed of their trucks for fuel-saving reasons, they have become less competitive in the driver recruitment market. With driver turnover rates in excess of 100% with most of these large carriers, including the ones listed as “Road Safe America,” I would suggest that they focus their energy on people issues and not delude themselves with 68 mph speed limiters.I have always felt that the so-called “driver shortage” pales when compared with the ”management shortage” in the trucking industry. This petition to FMCSA is just one small example.John MagdielChief Executive OfficerRight Way Trucking Co.Bountiful, UtahThis letter appears in the Feb. 26 print edition of Transport Topics. Subscribe today.