Speed limiters: Senate bill to mandate a 65 mph setting a ‘terrible idea’

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Updated Jun 16, 2021
Speed Limit 65

So says Henry Albert, past (2007) Overdrive Trucker of the Year and current Freightliner Team Run Smart member, where his Albert Transport independent business serves as a real-world test vehicle for new truck technology, with a heavy emphasis in his case on aerodynamic equipment. Increasing the number of interactions between himself and those he shares the road with seems principally on his mind, but Albert also speculates about just why speed limiter mandate partisans among safety advocates have made this new push via Congress.

It’s no secret some fleets have turned up their trucks’ governors in the wake of the electronic logging device mandate, a certain kind of trade-off to drivers for what measure of time flexibility on either end of the daily hours limitations was lost in the wake of that mandate. “I think this 65 mph thing is coming up a because a lot of the fleets have turned up to 72,” Albert says. Speeding incidents are reported to be up, with  too many drivers “flying when they shouldn’t be flying,” Albert says, and limiter advocates sense opportunity.

Albert, too, as regular readers and Overdrive Radio podcast listeners will recall, has turned to higher speeds of late in part for reasons of maximizing available time and off-duty periods (mostly the latter) on either end of his fairly regular North Carolina-to-Texas runs, likewise to test the fuel-mileage impacts of higher speeds with the enhanced aerodynamics on the custom Cascadia he’s in. While “I’m running fast,” at speeds up to 75 mph where local speed limits allow it, “when the speed limits falls, I slow down.”

Predictably, he notes, when that happens the passing around his left then starts in earnest. Frustrating, in a few ways — Albert gets to pass most of these truckers and four-wheelers again “down the road when the speed limit goes back up.”

He speculates that, rather than place a speed limiter mandate at 65 mph on commercial trucks, what if we move toward another “technology that’s coming quick” — the ability for tech-equipped vehicles to know the speed limits on any stretch of road and dynamically limit all vehicles to that speed. That’d be some of kind of check on the number of on-highway interactions, wouldn’t it?

Careful what you wish for, at once. Imagine how the notion of speed-limiting automobiles might play out in the political world. Armageddon, anyone?

Cars and motorcycles need speed limiters too. Maybe then drivers like the Schneider driver wouldn’t have gotten cut off and ran off on the I-610 ship channel and lost his life.” –Kevin Tate

Albert knows the dynamic well.

Longtime readers will recall his assessment of the last sizable additions to the hours of service rule, a product largely of listening sessions after which the agency essentially ignored the call for introduced 14-hour-rule flexibility but heard loud and clear a couple other demands. As I wrote back in 2014, amid OOIDA’s call for then FMCSA Chief Anne Ferro to resign over perceived public tarring and feathering of the trucking public by association with the actions of a few:

“Be careful what you wish for’ summed up Albert’s message, essentially, following a lot of what he heard from drivers participating in the now-long-ago listening sessions on the hours of service revisions that went into effect [in 2013]. 

On those revisions — those relative to the restart particularly onerous, Albert notes — he saw then that FMCSA could easily be viewed as having listened to drivers in crafting the rule, if they didn’t hear the call for flexibility, as I’ve written. From my memory of the listening sessions, take these two major complaints, from drivers: 

**Carriers too often insist on drivers maximizing all available 11 hours of drive time. 
**Carriers too often position drivers to take their restarts at odd hours of their weekend so they weren’t getting restorative sleep. 

Ask and you shall receive: Later, we got the 30-minute break and the requirement that two 1-5 a.m. periods be included in the restart. 

ID a real problem, and regulators will go about fixing it. But something is more than likely to be lost in the translation. As the recent history of the hours of service makes clear, one might not like just how it’s fixed.

For now, any speed limiter mandate is not going to come from the DOT and FMCSA. That ball, if it’s to be kicked, is sitting ahead of the foot of Congress. Voices among the driving community, I know, are growing against it.

Here’s a few from recent commentary here on OverdriveOnline.com:

Baron Clemmer: A slower speed for trucks will not increase safety on the highways, however it will create an unsafe environment. Cars traveling 75-80 mph and trucks going 65 will certainly cause rear-end collisions. We all know that because we have common sense, something that is in short supply in Washington!

Lisa Hyatt: This is a big mistake. Citizens already speed around the truck that goes slower than the posted speed, and the max speed limit is not the same in most states. That would make trucks a hazard on the highway. Send some of those lawmakers out on a road trip for a week or two with some of the truck drivers that are governed down and see what the drivers deal with every day. Then make your ruling.

Paul Congdon: As long as cars cut off trucks there will always be wrecks no matter how slow you make us go.

“Hummer”: Another dangerous mandate from another expert senator. I’m comfortable driving 68 to 70, but when I pass a vehicle I need to do just that, no messing around. I need control of the truck. If they pass this bill, my truck will be going 0 mph in my yard. Enough is enough.

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