Testimony of Todd Spencer

| 6/11/2003

Senate Highways and Transportation Committee
Senate Bill 94
June 10, 2003

Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President
Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association

Good afternoon, Chairman Armbruster and members of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee.  My name is Todd Spencer.  I am the executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.  OOIDA is the national trade association representing the views of the men and women that drive their own trucks in Ohio as well as all other states.

OOIDA has over 6,000 members in Ohio, plus thousands of members that pass through the state regularly delivering all of those essential items necessary to maintain our livelihoods. 

The typical member of our organization has nearly twenty years of experience as a professional truck driver and will drive in excess of 110,000 miles each year on every kind of roadway in every type of weather to deliver goods.  Most of our members are married with families at home and they are stable residents of their communities.

Our members have 8 to 10 times the exposure to accident causing situations as the average motorist in driving approximately 110,000 miles each year.  They take highway safety very seriously for their own safety as well as the safety of others they share the road with.  More truck drivers die on the job each year than any other occupation in America.  These men and women are serious about highway safety for themselves, their families and all others they share the highways with.

Trucking is a safe industry.  Truck related car fatalities have dropped for the fourth year in a row and the fatal crash rate is the lowest since the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping records in 1975.  Nationally, over the past 10 years, truck related fatalities have dropped by 34%, while miles traveled by trucks have increased by 42%.

Our members are also especially careful about their driving because a serious crash can effectively put them out of business because of lost income.

I'm here today to ask for the support of lawmakers in making Ohio highways a little more user friendly and safer at the same time.

The existing policy of requiring trucks to drive at speeds ten miles per hour slower than other vehicles does not promote safety on the highways.  It does exactly the opposite by requiring that vehicles are constantly in conflict with each other.  Lane changes and passing are constantly required to avoid crashes.

While some may suggest that having slower speed limits for trucks can somehow promote safety, there is much research to suggest otherwise.  Forty states currently have uniform speed limits for all vehicles using their highways.  Additionally, the legislature in Illinois voted for uniform speed limits in its current session by wide margins and the bill has been sent to the governor for his signature.

According to the Patrol's Statewide Vehicle Speed Analysis of November 1995, "the overall mean speeds on Ohio roadways appear to be at, or just slightly above the posted speed limit.  A wide disparity in speed variance data, however, is an important factor regarding the evaluation of vehicle speeds statewide.  Speed variance statistics represent the difference between the 85th percentile speed, and the posted speed limit.  Speed variance is important because conclusions from prior studies indicate the most significant contributing factor to vehicle crashes is not excessive speed, but the variation of vehicle speeds traveling on a specific roadway.  The wide speed variances seen in Ohio indicates the increased likelihood for the occurrence of vehicle crashes."

Senate Bill 94 is not about trucks driving faster, it is about easing congestion, road rage and minimizing the opportunities for vehicles of all sizes to come together and create a crash.  This legislation seeks to promote uniform speed limits on Ohio’s Interstate System, which happen to be the safest roads in Ohio.  These roads were constructed to withstand speeds in excess of 65 mph and because they have limited access, they are h

By having one speed limit that all vehicles comply with you minimize the need for passing, lane changes, tailgating, and other maneuvers that create opportunities for drivers to make mistakes.  This isn't physics or rocket science.  It's simple common sense that highway engineers have known and followed for decades.

Perhaps the simplest and most honest analogy of the benefits of uniform speed limits is this:  You start traveling from Columbus heading north on Interstate 71 toward Cleveland.  In front of you is a group of cars all traveling ten-miles-per-hour faster than the line of trucks they are about to overtake.  Behind you is another group of cars traveling ten-miles-per-hour faster than a line of trucks they just passed.  As you continue your trip north, you routinely face an obstacle course of trucks traveling ten-miles-per-hour slower, thus creating a bottleneck and leapfrog situation nearly every five minutes.

Now, take the same trip to Cleveland and envision the same cars and trucks all traveling at the same speed.  Ideally, those who started their trip before you will remain ahead of you and those who started their trip after you will remain behind you the entire way to Cleveland. 

Quite likely there will always be some drivers (both truck and car) that choose to drive in an unsafe manner.  That's where the highway patrol should be focusing their efforts to make highways safe for all drivers.

I would like to conclude my testimony by stating how proud I am that OOIDA’s members are the safest drivers.  According to Great West Casualty Company, the nation’s largest truck insurer, owner-operators are involved in fewer accidents and less severe accidents than any other group of truckers.  I should also add that Great West Casualty Company is a supporter of uniform speed limits.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify.  I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have.