ATA lobbying for mandatory speed limiters

| 10/19/2006

In what some critics are calling a move by large motor carriers to put limits on their independent competitors, the ATA is moving forward with its campaign to limit truck speeds at 68 mph.

ATA has scheduled a press conference Friday, Oct. 20, to announce the filing of two petitions with federal agencies asking for regulations mandating the activation of speed limiters on all heavy trucks.

The move comes just a month after nine of ATA's large motor carriers sent a petition of their own to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration seeking the same regulation.

One of ATA's petitions, according to a press release, will ask the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to limit truck speeds at the point of manufacture. An accompanying petition will ask FMCSA to prohibit tampering with the devices to set them higher than 68 mph.

The move goes further than a previous ATA effort to ask the OEMs to activate speed limiters on a voluntary basis.

All of the OEMs already activate speed limiters, but that happens at the request of their customers. Many fleets have speed limiters activated at the point of manufacture.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has opposed all measures for a one-size-fits-all limit to truck speeds, particularly when 24 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher.

"It appears to be a public relations campaign to, in essence, try to cast themselves as being a super-safety advocate," OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spender told "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio.

Spencer alluded to the "bigger and heavier" agenda that many large motor carriers support.

"Another issue that some of these folks have been sort of implying is that they would like to go in the direction of bigger and heavier trucks and longer combination vehicles - heavier weights of 96,000 or 98,000 pounds," Spencer said.

Spencer said speed limiters on an 80,000-pound semi-truck could potentially create more hazard than benefit on the highways.

"A truck with a speed limiter on it is going to be more challenging for a driver to drive for the certain instances where you might need to speed up to get where you needed to be or to get out of somebody's way," Spencer said. "A truck that lacks the ability to safely pass another vehicle in a timely manner is going to be harder to drive. It's going to be more challenging to driver."

Fuel efficiency, safety, the environment, driver shortages and driver retention continue to be debated in relation to speed limiters.

Federal statistics, according to The Associated Press, show that fatalities in truck-involved crashes have fallen substantially in the past few years.

The activist group Public Citizen says drivers should be paid by the hour and not by the mile, and that would render some of the other arguments useless.