OEMs activate speed limiters based on customer demand

| 2/24/2006

Truck manufacturers are choosing some middle ground on the speed limiter issue, at least for now.

According to Will Schaefer, a staff engineer for the Truck Manufacturers Association, original equipment manufacturers activate engine governors before trucks leave their factories based on the demands of their customers – and they will continue to do so.

The Truck Manufacturers Association, or TMA, is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, and represents many of today’s OEMs.

Schaefer talked with Land Line following the announcement that ATA’s leadership had endorsed activating speed limiters on all new trucks at 68 mph at the point of manufacture.

“That, in itself, is something we already do, but the thing to remember is, they’re not all (activated) at the same speed,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer said he could see both sides of ATA’s claims made following ATA’s annual Winter Leadership Meeting, Feb. 14, in Florida.

“We as truck manufacturers would recognize that there are benefits to safety and fuel economy when we’re all going the same speed,” Schaefer said. “But (all) vehicles don’t drive at the same speed.”

Schaefer acknowledged that very little is being done to curb the speed of cars, and until that is done, speed limiters on trucks will continue to create speed differentials and possibly more dangerous interactions.

“The less differential in speed on highways, the safer we are,” Schaefer said.

The ATA leadership vote came just three months after another carrier group – the Ontario Trucking Association in Canada – asked the provincial government there to require speed limiters be set at 105 kilometers per hour, or 65 mph. A government report on the request in Ontario is still in the works.

The OTA and ATA plans are similar, with the major difference being the suggested speed.

ATA research shows nearly 75 percent of fleets use engine governors set at specific speeds.

ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement following the Florida conference that speed limiters would increase safety.

“There has been a growing sense within the trucking industry for the need to slow down the large truck population as well as all traffic,” Graves said. “With speeding as a factor in one-third of all fatal highway crashes, it makes all the sense in the world to work to reduce this number.”

But others in the industry claim speed being a factor in “one third of all fatal highway crashes” does not take into account who caused the accidents or if it was the trucks doing the speeding. Speeding is also a relative term, depending on road and weather conditions.

Steven Johnson of the University of Arkansas found in a study of rural interstate highways that speed differentials between cars and trucks actually increase safety risks by increasing the amount of maneuvering and interaction.

Twenty-two states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher.

Johnson suggests that slowing down trucks while allowing cars to push the speed limits could lead to more cars rear-ending trucks.

Johnson also found that more trucks would end up in single file in the right lane if their speed limiters were activated, while the cars buzz past on the left. That could create problems for vehicles merging on and off of interstates.

– By David Tanner, staff writer