Who Is Winning Battle Over Bill To Mandate Speed Limiters?
Little Rock, Arkansas – Trucking industry stakeholders are once again embroiled in a fierce battle over mandating the use of speed limiters in commercial big rigs, but who has the upper hand in the debate so far?
In June, U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, (R-GA) and Chris Coons, (D-DE) introduced the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019, S.2033.
The legislation would require all new commercial trucks with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more to be equipped with speed-limiting devices, which must be set to a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour and used at all times while in operation.
The maximum speed requirement would also be extended to existing trucks that already have the technology installed.
The legislation also establishes that all large trucks manufactured after the effective date will be equipped with speed-limiting technology.
Further, within six months of enactment, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) must establish standards and rules to ensure that the speed-limiting technology on large trucks is accurate and that the trucks adhere to a maximum speed no faster than 65 mph.
Supporters Hit The Ground Running
In a coordinated public relations offensive, supporters of the newly introduced legislation immediately sought to begin dominating the debate.
Along with the announcement of the bill, safety advocacy groups such as Parents Against Tired Truckers, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation, the Truck Safety Coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Road Safe America each issued strong endorsements.
Other notable trucking industry stakeholders such as the Trucking Alliance and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) also enthusiastically voiced their support.
Steve Williams, Chairman and CEO of Maverick USA in Little Rock, Arkansas, and co-founder and president of the Trucking Alliance has long been a strong supporter of mandating the use of speed limiters.
In a lengthy statement, Williams said speed limiters were “integral” to helping achieve the Trucking Alliance’s mission to “reduce and eventually eliminate all large truck fatalities.”
He argued in part:
There’s simply no legitimate reason for an 80-foot tractor trailer to be driven within a few feet of other motorists, at speeds of 70 or 75 or 80 miles per hour.
The safety benefits of Senate Bill 2033 are obvious.
TCA issued its detailed statement on July 10.
In it, the association said the industry had a “moral imperative” to adopt an “operational approach to safety,” and contended the bill “could make significant safety strides for all motorists on the nation’s roadways.”
Additionally, the statement read in part:
The majority of TCA’s members have already adopted speed limiters, in addition to many other safety technologies that we believe will save countless lives, and they are using their electronic logging devices to identify drivers in need of remediation.
However, TCA went further and invoked a familiar refrain often employed during the debate to mandate electronic logging devices (ELD).
The effects that speed limiting technology will have on the industry as a whole will eventually create a level playing field among all carriers so that we can continue to have meaningful discussions around topics such as safety, productivity, and the future of trucking technology.
The “level the playing field” argument was effective among many lawmakers in the ELD mandate battle.
It will likely continue to resonate today with many of these same legislators.
Opponents Push Back
After supporters swiftly moved to engage the public and lawmakers with their message, opponents sought to push back and begin building momentum for their arguments.
Long-time critic of a speed limiter mandate, the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA), has ramped up its public relations efforts to rally opposition to the bill among their members.
In a letter recently sent to Sens. Coons and Isakson, OOIDA’s president Todd Spencer was adamant that such a mandate would only exacerbate the dangers of navigating America’s congested roadways.
“By establishing a one-size-fits-all federal mandate limiting (commercial motor vehicles) to 65 mph, your legislation would create dangerous speed differentials between CMVs and other vehicles.”
Further, Spencer argued the added stress speed limiters would foist upon truckers would cause even greater risks of fatigue.
“Truckers required to operate below the posted speed limit are forced to drive maximum hours to cover the same distance, which increases their fatigue and places even greater stress on them to comply with burdensome hours-of-service regulations.”
Other grassroots trucking groups are opposing the legislation including TruckerNation and the 15,000-member Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC).
SBTC’s outspoken leader James Lamb tells Transportation Nation Network (TNN) he is imploring Congress to “tread lightly on speed limiters.”
Some members of Congress have clearly been captured by the interests of ‘Big Trucking.’
He argues the “unintended consequences” a speed limiter mandate would bring about would inevitably put more truckers and members of the motoring public in greater danger than before.
Moreover, Lamb asserts “Big Trucking” is seeking to gain leverage in the debate over speed limiters in much the same way it did in the fight over the ELD mandate.
Lamb says “Big Trucking” is pushing the new legislation under the “guise of safety” when in fact, it has little to do with improving anyone’s safety.
Such an effort is not really about improving safety as they purport, but about defeating and harming competition.
Lamb says the SBTC is urging the Department of Justice to issue a competitive impact statement on the bill.
TNN has received many comments from subscribers and readers on our social media pages, as well as direct messages and emails.
The overwhelming majority of the comments from truckers has been in strong opposition to mandating speed limiters.
It has been trending since the speed limiter mandate bill was introduced.
So, who do you believe has the upper hand in the speed limiter debate right now?
Stay logged on to TransportationNation.com in the days to come for more on this developing battle.