NEW YORK — As officials in Tennessee are investigating whether a school bus driver was speeding when he crashed into a tree, killing five children and an adult, Sen. Charles Schumer is urging federal officials to implement an anti-speeding proposal for trucks and buses before the end of the year.
Commenters have two weeks to weigh in on a proposal from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to limit the speed at which heavy-duty vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds travel.
The proposed policy would require speed-limiting devices on the vehicles, preventing them from exceeding either 60, 65 or 68 mph. The federal agencies will determine where to set the maximum speed after hearing public input.
"There are significant safety benefits to this proposed rulemaking," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "In addition to saving lives, the projected fuel and emissions savings make this proposal a win for safety, energy conservation, and our environment."
Standing alongside busy Milford Drive near the Clove Road overpass for the Staten Island Expressway, Schumer echoed that sentiment.
"There is nothing more frightening than when driving your car, you see a huge truck right on your tail, barreling behind you," Schumer said as traffic passed behind him. "I've experienced it like so many others — it's an extremely frightening experience, and it's not just frightening and disconcerting, but it's deadly."
Citing statistics from the state Department of Motor Vehicles, Schumer noted the high number of crashes that involve large trucks — 10,742 statewide in 2014, with close to 1,000 related to unsafe speed.
On Staten Island, there were 10 truck crash-related fatalities in the past three years.
Electronic speed-limiting devices would prevent trucks and buses from exceeding the set speed, making travel safer.
"For every Staten Islander who's been next to or in the cross hairs of a speeding big rig, technology like this can't come fast enough," the senator said.
Many trucking companies already voluntarily equip their trucks with the speed-limiting technology, but about 30% don't, and that's what the new rule would change.
Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader, noted his November re-election by a high margin and thanked Staten Islanders for voting for him.
"I want to promise Staten Islanders I'm going to pay as much attention to Staten Island as I ever have."
The quicker the feds approve this rule, the better, the senator said.
"They're open to it, but they gotta get it done."
The public comment period on the proposal is open through Dec. 7. Comments can be submitted through the Federal Register.