A Republican and a Democratic senator have teamed up to introduce a bipartisan bill that would require all new Class 7 and Class 8 trucks to be equipped with speed-limiting devices that must be set to a maximum speed of 65 mph and be used whenever in operation.
In addition, the bill would extend the 65-mph maximum speed requirement to existing trucks already fitted with speed limiters. However, under this legislation, trucks without speed limiters will not be forced to retroactively install them.
Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) said in a June 27 press release that their Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019 (S.2033) will serve as “a lifesaving road safety measure for heavy trucks by codifying a pending ‘speed limiter’ rule that has languished in the federal bureaucratic process for 10 years.”
“The majority of trucks on our roads already have speed-limiting technology built in, and the rest of the technologically advanced world has already put them to use to ensure drivers follow safe speeds,” said Isakson. “This legislation would officially enforce a long-awaited speed limit of 65 mph on large trucks and reduce the number of preventable fatalities on our busy roadways.”
“Senator Isakson has long been a leader in advancing highway safety,” said Coons. “I am pleased to introduce legislation with him that will help reduce accidents on our roadways by requiring the use of speed limiting technology in large trucks – a step that many companies have already taken to promote safety and fuel efficiency.”
The senators noted that their bill has been endorsed by a cross-section of highway-safety advocacy groups, including Road Safe America, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation, Parents Against Tired Truckers, the Trucking Alliance, the Truckload Carriers Association, and the Truck Safety Coalition.
“When our son Cullum was killed on his way back to college with his brother Pierce after spending Thanksgiving at home with us, we became forever heartbroken parents,” said Steve Owings, president and co-founder of Road Safe America, in the senators’ press release. “At the time, we were unaware that speed limiters were already being built into big-rig trucks as a standard capability, but American truck drivers were not required to use them. Once we learned that this technology, which could have saved our son, was available and in use by many leading U.S. companies, we founded Road Safe America to educate the public and change things like this.”
Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, told HDT that the safety coalition of transportation and logistics companies considers the new bill to be “consistent with our mission to support safety measures that can reduce large truck crash fatalities. Senators Isakson and Coons have introduced a bill that strikes a good balance between improving safety while still allowing carriers to be productive.
“Most fleets already operate with speed limiters set between 62 and 68 mph, so 65 mph will be a reasonable maximum,” he continued. “Of course, drivers may go at slower speeds. Older trucks will not be required to retrofit, but to simply abide by the maximum speed safety standard.”
Kidd noted that the measure would add a new federal motor carrier safety standard, which he said means that “states will simply adopt the standard as they do with all other federal motor carrier safety regulations.” He added that “there is no reason for an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer to operate at 70 mph or greater on our highways”
According to Sens. Isakson and Coons, the Department of Transportation has “delayed the rulemaking of the ‘speed limiter rule’ more than 20 times since it was first proposed in 2011. After a number of unnecessary delays, a proposed speed limiter rule was approved by the Office of Management and Budget and ultimately published by the Department of Transportation for comment on Sept. 7, 2016. However as currently written, the rule would only apply to new trucks, despite the fact that the majority of existing trucks already have the speed-limiting technology built into their systems.”
American Trucking Associations chief Chris Spear slammed that proposal for its lack of specificity and the dearth of research backing it up.
Truck speed limiters were also on the National Transportation Safety Board's Most Wanted List released earlier this year.