SPECIAL REPORT: Congressman not impressed with ATA speed limiter dream

| 1/30/2009

Friday, Jan. 30 – The chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit said this week that he is not in favor of slowing trucks down through electronic limiters or a national speed limit.

Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-OR, questioned proposals brought forward by the ATA during a hearing Tuesday, Jan. 27, on the topic of energy reduction and environmental sustainability in surface transportation.

“I’ve heard from safety advocates and others that rear-end collisions are a big problem – and if you’re moving trucks slower, that would be a big problem,” DeFazio stated during an exchange with ATA First Vice Chairman Tommy Hodges.

Hodges spoke at the hearing to promote ATA’s so-called green initiatives, which include idle-reduction, congestion relief and slowing down trucks.

DeFazio said idle reduction and congestion relief are important issues, but the subcommittee was not interested in pursuing a national speed limit or mandatory speed limiters.

“I don’t think this committee is going to go back and pre-empt the states for what the (Government Accountability Office) and others say are dubious savings in terms of fuel,” DeFazio stated.

“I just want to caution you there that this is one of your weaker legs, and it’s the least amount of projected savings of those three areas.”

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association applauded DeFazio’s statements.

Following the hearing, OOIDA issued a press release accusing the ATA of “greenwashing” its agenda to appeal to Congress and the new president.

“ATA is putting forth this agenda, and a good portion of it has nothing to do with the environment,” OOIDA General Affairs Counsel Laura O’Neill said in a follow-up interview.

“This is ATA’s national platform and members of Congress are recognizing that and calling them out on it. That speaks volumes. It’s no small feat that the committee chairman says he’s not going to take it up.”

O’Neill attended the hearing. She said one of the highlights for her and for OOIDA members was when DeFazio said excessive idling was an issue he would like to see addressed on the supply side of trucking.

“Truckers are at the mercy of these people,” O’Neill said. “If you want savings in fuel emissions and greenhouse gases, you should address idling. And one of the places where excessive idling takes place is waiting at the docks. It’s a supply chain issue that isn’t being addressed.”

DeFazio also stated that driver training and obeying the posted speed limits are good ways to save fuel.

– By David Tanner, staff writer