SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA criticizes feds for considering speed limiters

| 1/29/2007

Monday, Jan. 29, 2007 - The fact that two federal agencies are even considering petitions requesting mandatory speed limiters on trucks "is a clear indication that federal agencies are all-too willing to appease big business," according to OOIDA officials.

A press release issued by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association following the feds' announcement made it all-too clear the Association is skeptical of the motives behind considering the speed limiter petitions. To read the press release, click here.

Petitions requesting the government to require speed limiters be set at 68 mph and not tampered with are in the process of being considered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

NHTSA and FMCSA are requesting comments on petitions for rulemaking from the American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America and a group of nine motor carriers. The petitions request devices that would limit the speed of certain trucks and prohibit owners and operators from adjusting the speed limiting devices.

The notice seeking comments was posted Friday, Jan. 26, on the Federal Register.

OOIDA's press release says the announcement that the feds will consider requiring speed limiters on large trucks is "just one more example of how big business controls the national agenda to the detriment of many."

Between September and October 2006, several petitions were submitted requesting the government to require truck manufacturers to install speed limiters on trucks greater than 26,000 pounds and to set them at no more than 68 mph. The petitions also asked FMCSA to prohibit anyone from adjusting the speed limiters.

The federal agencies want comments to supplement a review of the material presented by ATA and the other petitioners, along with an evaluation of data or other relevant information the agencies may already have, in conducting a technical review of the petitions.

In the federal government's notice for comments, there are some particularly interesting results cited by the agencies regarding the impact of speeding on large-truck crashes.

For example, the agencies reference a 1991 NHTSA report to Congress titled ''Commercial Motor Vehicle Speed Control Safety." The report found that non-detectable radar studies show that compliance of speed limits by combination-unit trucks was poor, "but better than that of passenger vehicles."

It went on to state most trucks that were speeding traveled at just over the posted speed limit.

"Crash statistics indicated that speeding was generally less involved in combination unit truck crashes than it was in passenger vehicle crashes," the agencies cited from the report.

That's a fact not lost on OOIDA.

"Since very few highway accidents involving trucks take place at speeds greater than 68 mph, you don't have to be a highway safety expert to conclude a singular focus on truck speed could hardly produce a safety breakthrough," said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. "But, that's not how it works in Washington, DC, where perception is spun to be reality."

OOIDA points out that support for speed limiters by a handful of large trucking companies and their association under the guise of safety is nothing more than a public relations smokescreen - and not the real reason behind the petitions.

Currently, trucking companies can set speed limiters on their trucks at any speed their company execs choose, Spencer said.

"In fact," Spencer said, "many large companies already speed limit their trucks but they don't 'crow' about their safety records because they're nothing to brag about.

"They want a government mandate to do it, however, because they know their drivers, whom they pay only for miles driven, would move to another company with a less restrictive speed policy. And they want to deny shippers the option of choosing trucking companies that place a higher priority on on-time service."

The consideration is even more misguided and outrageous when you really examine the safety data, OOIDA contends in the press release.

"There is nothing desirable about turning trucks into rolling roadblocks and obstacles for other drivers," Spencer said.

"Slower isn't safer. Every year, NHTSA accident data shows that cars are far more likely to run into the backs of trucks than the other way around. Real highway safety experts have always known that highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same speed."

Spencer went on to speculate that there is another reason driving the petitions that asked for speed limiters.

"The big companies want government approval to run longer and heavier trucks all over the country. The speed limiter proposal is like putting lipstick on that idea," Spencer said.

The feds will accept comments on the speed limiter idea through March 27.

After considering the technical review and comments submitted a decision will be made whether to grant or deny either or both of these petitions.

Where to send comments

The comment deadline is March 27. Comments can be signed or submitted anonymously. Anyone can submit comments. All submissions must include the agency name and docket number, NHTSA-2007-26851.

To submit your completed comments, you can:

Docket Management Facility

U.S. Department of Transportation

400 Seventh St. SW, Nassif Building Room PL-401

Washington, DC 20590-0001

- By Jami Jones, senior editor