'Potential adverse safety impacts': Speed limiters, truck parking discussed in Senate hearing

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023:

State DOT hints at safety concerns with mandated speed limiters

During witness testimony Tuesday at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, a representative from the North Dakota Department of Transportation said the department has “concerns” about a potential speed limiter mandate on heavy-duty trucks.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has signaled its intent to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking, possibly as soon as December, proposing to mandate speed limiters be used by most interstate motor carriers.  

The hearing featured three witnesses discussing issues related to roadway safety and examining the causes of roadway safety challenges and possible solutions. Testifying were Karina Ricks, a partner with city planning organization Cityfi; Brenda Neville, president and CEO of the Iowa Motor Truck Association and co-chair of the American Trucking Associations’ Women in Motion Advisory Council; and Karin Mongeon, NDDOT Highway Safety Division director.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) said the idea of mandating speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks “gives me serious concern,” noting that in his home state, the speed limit on interstate highways is 75 mph. A mandate could create a situation in which trucks travel up to 10 mph slower than the speed limit.

Cramer asked Mongeon whether NDDOT worries about the potential for the disruption of traffic flows if speed limiters were to be mandated.

[Related: Speed-limiter mandate: Owner-operators call out FMCSA's misplaced priorities]

“The North Dakota DOT has concerns,” she said. “Of course, North Dakota's economy is reliant upon efficient transport of industry products. Our concerns include potential adverse safety impacts from creating speed differentials between heavy trucks and cars. So, we are aware that the U.S. DOT has stated its intent to issue, as soon as December, a proposed rule that would require speed limits on trucks, Class 7 and higher. We will review that proposed rule and issue comments, but we do have concerns.”

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Neville, speaking on behalf of ATA, said the association is in wait-and-see mode and will file comments when the proposal is published. She declined to offer additional comments.

The truck parking shortage engendered questions from Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona), among others. Neville noted that with just 313,000 truck parking spaces in the U.S. for approximately 3.5 million truck drivers, “the truck parking shortage is real.” As a result, drivers are often forced to park on the shoulder of a road or an on- or off-ramp when their hours of service expire for the day.

“How many of us would tolerate a job where access to a restroom or a safe place to park and sleep at night is no guarantee?” she asked the subcommittee members. “That’s what’s going on right now.”

She also noted that truck drivers are losing productivity because they are spending time before their hours run out just searching for a place to park, oftentimes outside their route.

[Related: Speed limiters at 68 mph 'still speculation,' but drivers hate it anyway]

The day before the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing Tuesday, a group of trucking associations and other trade organizations penned a letter to EPW members expressing their support for the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) in March.

Among trucking-related groups that signed the letter were the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, National Association of Small Trucking Companies, American Trucking Associations, Truckload Carriers Association, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Mid-West Truckers Association, Transportation Intermediaries Association, National Association of Truck Stop Operators and others.

The groups said the bipartisan bill “addresses an important safety concern that negatively affects the trucking industry, the American public, and the national supply chain.”

Among benefits of passing the legislation, according to the letter, are:

  • Improved driver well-being
  • Better driver recruitment and retention
  • Maximizes federal dollars
  • Enhanced highway safety
  • Economic prosperity
  • Reduced roadway congestion

“We urge you to prioritize consideration of the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act in the EPW Committee and the Senate,” the letter said. “We hope that the Committee will follow the lead of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which approved companion legislation earlier this year by a vote of 60 to 4.”

[Related: $755 million truck parking bill reintroduced in Congress]

Peach State Truck Centers breaking ground on 14th location

Peach State Truck Centers Villa Rica, GeorgiaPeach State Truck Centers will break ground next week on a new location in Villa Rica, Georgia, which is expected to open in the fall of 2025.Peach State Truck CentersPeach State Truck Centers will soon host a groundbreaking ceremony for a new dealership in Villa Rica, Georgia. The official groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern on Nov. 14. The event will include guest speakers such as the President and Dealer Principal of Peach State Truck Centers, Rick Reynolds, and local dignitaries.

Located at the corner of Edge and Liberty Road off exit 26 on I-20, the new dealership will be positioned to serve trucking needs in west Georgia and eastern Alabama.

Peach State said the new facility will sit on 30 acres right off the interstate and will feature a wide range of commercial vehicles, including new and used trucks from Freightliner, Western Star vocational trucks, Thomas Built Buses school buses and Spartan fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. The location will also have at least 40 service bays and a parts warehouse with significant inventory added to their already $60,000,000 on-hand inventory across their dealerships.

“As the Atlanta market continues to expand west from our Atlanta metro locations and east from our Birmingham and other Alabama locations, we want to be able to provide a wide range of services to the commercial trucking industry along that I-20 corridor.” said Greg Althardt, Peach State’s COO. 

The new Villa Rica location will mark Peach State Truck Center’s 14th, and its opening in the fall of 2025 will mark the beginning of consolidation for Peach State’s Austell, Georgia, location.

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