The group representing about 150,000 of the nation's owner-operator truck drivers told two government agencies that a proposed rule requiring speed-limiting devices on large trucks is not supported by science and would make highways less safe.
In a letter sent yesterday to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said that uniform highway speeds for all vehicles—cars and trucks—set by each state are the best way to keep the highways safe. Separate speed limits for cars and trucks, by contrast, increase the risk of crashes, the group said.
The group is opposed to policies that would create what it called "speed differentials" for heavy-duty trucks because of the resulting increased interactions between vehicles, which would lead to a greater likelihood of collisions. OOIDA asked the agencies to think carefully before setting a policy it warned would "create a dangerous, split-speed environment on U.S. highways."
The two federal agencies are preparing to submit a draft rule on speed limiters to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The rule is projected to be published July 27. Many carriers have installed speed limiters in their vehicles, but there is currently no federal mandate to do so.
OOIDA called for, among other things, a policy for comprehensive entry-level driver training, and what it termed "increased supply chain stakeholder accountability." OOIDA said there are currently no consequences for shippers and receivers who keep truckers waiting at terminals, sometimes for hours, to load and unload freight. That idle time counts against a driver's hours-of-service, does not compensate the driver, and could impact highway safety if the driver feels compelled to drive faster to make up the lost time, the group said.
About 12 percent of the trucking industry is impacted to some degree by long driver detention times, Jack Van Steenburg, FMCSA's chief safety officer and assistant administrator, told the Transportation Intermediaries Association's (TIA) annual meeting in Orlando April 17. The subagency of the Department of Transportation is studying the issue, Van Steenburg said. Generally, carriers allot between 1.2 and 2 hours of so-called free time before they assess detention charges for holding up their drivers. Earlier this week, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents large for-hire fleets, called for a national speed limit of 65 mph for heavy-duty trucks and urged that all vehicles should fall under the same federal standard.
Currently, each state sets its own speed limits. Oregon and Wisconsin are the only states west of Pennsylvania that still mandate a 65 mph maximum speed limit. Maximum speed limits vary state by state.
Norita Taylor, an OOIDA spokeswoman, said the group believes that states should remain in charge of establishing their own speed limits, but that each state's rule should apply to all vehicles operating within its borders.
The vast majority of the nation's truck fleets are composed of those with five trucks or fewer.