SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA opposes speed limiters petition

| 10/20/2006

Oct. 20, 2006 - OOIDA is standing its ground on behalf of all professional truck drivers who want to operate safely within the context of highway regulations and posted speed limits.

That's why the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association responded quickly when a national motor carrier association asked the federal government to require the activation of speed limiters on heavy-duty commercial trucks at the point of manufacture.

The American Trucking Association filed two petitions Friday, Oct. 20. One seeks to require original equipment manufacturers to activate speed limiters, also called engine governors, on all new trucks at a maximum of 68 mph. The second asks the government to make it against the law to tamper with the devices.

Thirty states currently have maximum speed limits of 70 mph or higher on rural interstates.

Just as it has in previous scenarios where large motor carriers have pushed for speed limiters, OOIDA has taken a stand against a government mandate, citing several documented studies linking speed differentials and crashes.

"Forcing heavy-duty trucks to drive slower than the flow of traffic, while other vehicles on the road continue to speed, sometimes excessively, will lead to frequent lane changes, passing, and weaving maneuvers, as well as tailgating by faster moving vehicles," OOIDA officials stated in comments they filed with the provincial government in Ontario, Canada, when motor carriers there proposed the mandatory activation of speed limiters.

That same point, along with several business-related points, is the basis for OOIDA's opposition to the ATA petitions in the U.S.

"These petitions are intended to be a Trojan horse for the true objectives of big trucking companies - doing away with current truck size and weight restrictions as well as increasing their importation of cheap, less qualified foreign drivers," Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said in immediate response to the ATA petitions.

"They are aimed at limiting competition from the small trucking companies that make up the vast majority of the industry," he said.

ATA's petitions went to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to require the speed-limiting devices be activated at the point of manufacture, and to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to prohibit tampering with the devices.

Nine large motor carriers petitioned FMCSA with similar requests in September, and ATA officials patted them on the back with an endorsement.

OOIDA officials at that time said a federal rulemaking could take time, possibly years to implement.

In its petition, obtained by Land Line Magazine, ATA cited FMCSA crash causation studies, where the focus was on pre-crash events for trucks "traveling too fast for conditions."

Excessive speeding is not condoned by any sector of the trucking industry, including independent drivers and owner-operators.

Spencer said the nation's largest motor carriers are cloaking their real agenda in their contentions about safer highways.

"It is no secret that large trucking corporations want to maximize their profits by opening all national highways to heavier trucks as well as double- and triple-trailer combinations. Those folks also wish to pad their bottom lines by bringing in exploitable foreign labor instead of paying appropriate wages to American citizens," Spencer said.

OOIDA contends the driving force behind the speed limiter proposal is money and has nothing to do with safety.

"Ironically, should these petitions come to fruition, America's roads will become much more dangerous to motorists and truckers alike," Spencer said.

In addition to needing to be able to drive with the flow of traffic, there are times when a truck driver would need to call on additional speeds to avoid potentially dangerous situations, Spencer said.

"Technology cannot take the place of a well-trained driver. If the big trucking corporations were honestly interested in promoting safety, they would be petitioning for a requirement for comprehensive training for all new truck drivers," Spencer said. "No such training requirements currently exist and those big companies have worked hard to keep it that way."

By David Tanner, staff writer

To read OOIDA's official press release on this topic, click here.