Speed Limiter Petitions Draw Heavy Response

Supporters Cite Safety, Better Fuel Efficiency

The Department of Transportation received nearly 3,700 responses, many of them anonymous, to a pair of petitions seeking a federal regulation to limit truck engine speeds to 68 miles per hour, with comments ranging from strong support to warnings of increased road rage.

Backers of a speed limiter requirement included advocacy groups and truck fleets, but many of the opponents were largely owner-operators and organizations representing them.

Some supporters wanted speed limiters retrofitted to all trucks, rather than only newly manufactured trucks, as cited in the petition American Trucking Associations filed last year requesting the regulation (10-23, p. 1).

“Speeding is a serious problem,” said Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Advocates supports retrofitting existing heavy trucks with speed limiters to the extent possible and a requirement for speed limiters on all newly manufactured heavy trucks.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued their request for public opinion after American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America filed petitions seeking a speed-limiter rule.

Road Safe’s petition sought a speed limiter requirement for all Class 7 and 8 trucks, including those already on the road.

Several carriers and individuals joined Advocates in supporting the petitions, with some citing fuel economy as a reason in addition to safety.

“Electronic engines of today can be set to limit maximum speeds and give you a higher miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency,” said Reggie Dupré, chief executive officer of Dupré Transport, Lafayette, La. “Highways are more and more congested, and limiting maximum truck speed makes these congested highways safer for everyone.”

Greer Woodruff, senior vice president of safety for J.B. Hunt Transport, said there was “not a good reason not to take advantage of the technologies currently available . . . that will ensure [trucks] do not operate on public roadways at speeds in excess of an established speed limit.”

The Partnership for Safe Driving said the proposal did not go far enough to limit speed on the highways and said a speed limiter rule should be extended to passenger cars. “The government should be mandating a governor setting [a] much, much lower [speed] than this, and the mandate should apply to all motorized vehicles in the U.S., not just large trucks,” the organization said.

However, many comments urged DOT not to go forward with a regulation, saying that limiting speed would make highways less safe and that a rule would unfairly single out truck drivers.

“The 68-mph speed limit is an arbitrary figure akin to picking a lottery number,” said the Independent Truckers Association, adding the proposals were “based on money, not logic.”

“By imposing a maximum speed in which a vehicle can operate, the overall safety of that vehicle on the highway becomes compromised, as does the operator and other highway users,” Charles Simpson III said.

Truck driver Rebecca Howard said a speed limiter would not work, “because it forces trucks to use the right lane,” making them vulnerable to “the majority of car drivers . . .  flying around trucks at warp speed in packs only to jam on their brakes to make the exit they knew was coming up.”

“My husband and I have driven for almost 50 years between the two of us. I can’t even remember the last ticket either of us got,” Howard said.  “We set our cruise to the speed limit and conditions and do our job. Punish the handful of [car and truck] drivers out there that don’t, and leave us alone.”

“In the United States, with wide-open roads in the West, congested roads in the East and speed limits that vary widely, is a nationwide catch-all speed of 68 mph for trucks really a wise safety measure?” Robert Harsell asked.

Commenter Larry Brown said the governor rule “would cause a dual speed limit in states where it has never existed before or was voted out by the motoring public and state governments. This difference in speed will add to road rage in drivers of smaller vehicles and only add to the adverse attitudes many show toward the drivers of large trucks.”

DOT now must decide whether to proceed with either petition, but has not announced a time frame.

This story appears in the April 2 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.


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