Governing speeds

| November 30, 2006

The American Trucking Associations today filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require that newly built large trucks be equipped with tamper-resistant speed limiters that would govern top speed at 68 mph.

The association also asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to enforce the 68 mph maximum. The petition came as no surprise, as ATA’s board of directors had approved the action earlier.

Although ATA says limiting the speed of trucks will produce safety benefits, the organization’s broader objective is to highlight the speed issue for all highway users. “We believe this goes a long way toward a national dialogue on excessive speed,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, in announcing the petition at a Washington, D.C., press conference.

In a prepared statement released just prior to ATA’s announcement, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association claimed that ATA wants to use this concession as a bargaining chip. “These petitions are intended to be a Trojan horse for the true objectives of big trucking companies – doing away with current truck size and weight restrictions as well as increasing their importation of cheap, less-qualified foreign drivers,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “Reduced speed promotes safety only if all vehicles are moving at those same reduced speeds.”

Graves says ATA’s proposal is consistent with its policy supporting a national speed limit of 65 mph. The 68 mph limit provides a cushion allowing for safe passing, according to the ATA. In addition, many carriers already govern their trucks, with a majority limiting speed to 68 mph or below. In addition to safety improvements, the ATA says that carriers that govern their trucks at 68 mph cite savings in fuel consumption, liability costs and equipment wear and tear.

Mac McCormick, CEO of Best Way Express and ATA’s first vice chairman, says the proposal isn’t uniformly popular, “but it’s the right thing to do.” McCormick adds that a speed limiter was needed to level the playing field. “If a guy speeds, that’s a competitive advantage, in my mind, at the expense of the traveling public.”

ATA’s petitions follow an earlier petition submitted to FMCSA by the safety advocacy group Road Safe America and major trucking companies. Although that petition also proposed a 68 mph limit, it would require all engines be equipped with electronic control modules that stop at 68 mph. Governors became standard equipment on Class 7 and 8 trucks in 1991.

Graves says ATA is not supporting that approach because focusing on newly manufactured equipment will make the controversial proposal more acceptable to the broadest constituency. Also, because any qualified technician could change the settings on today’s ECMs, a new tamper-proof chip is needed to make the speed limiter meaningful, ATA says.
- Avery Vise

Interstate Oases Move Step Closer to Reality
The Federal Highway Administration published its final notice on the Interstate Oasis Program without specifying the number of truck parking spaces necessary to qualify.

Instead, states will determine the number of necessary spaces based on the rest-area guidelines of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
The program will direct travelers to “interstate oases” within three miles of an exit. Such oases must have restrooms, drinking water, round-the-clock staffing, food, fuel and oil, as well as free, well-lighted parking.

“These additional facilities will help guarantee continued access to safe truck parking for long-haul truck drivers,” said Lisa Mullings, president of NATSO, the national trade association representing truckstops and travel plazas, which strongly endorsed the program.

States can designate private facilities as oases in areas where publicly owned rest areas do not offer truck parking, and two or more adjacent businesses can qualify as a single oasis. In recent years, states have had to close some publicly funded rest areas because of funding shortages.

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