OOIDA: Speed limiters will hurt, not help highway safety

| 4/2/2007

The idea of putting speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks is a bad one, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sought comments on a proposal by the American Trucking Association and several large motor carriers that seeks government-mandated use of speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks and a ban on tampering with them once they are implemented.

The petitions claimed highway safety would be improved by installing the speed limiters. Not so, OOIDA officials said in the Association’s official comments.

Rather than beefing up highway safety, limiting the speed of heavy-duty trucks will actually increase the occurrence of road rage, rear-end collisions of four-wheelers into trailers and the side-swiping of trucks, according to OOIDA’s comments.

“The critical fact totally ignored in the petitions is that reduced speeds promote safety only if, as ATA itself suggested in its press release, all vehicles are forced to move at reduced speeds,” OOIDA officials wrote in the comments.

The Association went on to point out that while speeding on the roadways may be a problem, it’s not the truckers doing it.

Straight to the heart of this point, OOIDA cited an independent study from 2003 – “Speeding: Climate Changes and Road Safety Implications for Heavy Freight Vehicles.” The study found that in accidents involving heavy-duty trucks, speeding by the other driver is a much more common causative factor than speeding by the truck driver.

That same conclusion was also documented by NHTSA in a 1991 report.

The Association cites several additional studies that debunk ATA’s claim that safety will be improved. The comments go on to point out that the petitions were more than likely a “Trojan Horse.”

“The question that must be asked is why the petitioners are pursuing mandatory speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks in lieu of other approaches that would help alleviate the actual speeding problems identified in the studies,” OOIDA points out in the comments.

The Association contends that the true motivation of ATA and the motor carriers is an “economic self-interest in lessening the competition for drivers.”

The OOIDA comments point out that many of ATA’s member motor carriers, who use speed limiters, are having problems recruiting and retaining drivers and this is partly because drivers don’t like fleet-enforced speed limits.

In closing, the Association urged NHTSA and FMCSA to work on more important issues in the industry – like a driver training rule, better enforcement of existing speed limits and implementing changes in the compensation structure now prevalent in the industry.

To download OOIDA's comments as a PDF document, click here.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor