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Feds move to limit speeds of trucks, buses

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Federal regulators are proposing a requirement that would force truck and passenger bus companies to install devices that limit their speeds to under 70 mph.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Friday they are looking at speed-limit devices that would allow a maximum speed of possibly 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour for trucks, buses and other multi-passenger vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds. But they also said other potential speed limits would be considered during public commenting on the new proposed rule.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Friday that “there are significant safety benefits to this proposed rulemaking.

“In addition to saving lives, the projected fuel and emissions savings make this proposal a win for safety, energy conservation, and our environment,” Foxx said in a statement.

Trucking groups in Washington have pushed for the requirement of speed limit devices on big rigs for years.

“We are pleased NHTSA and FMCSA have, almost 10 years after we first petitioned them, released this proposal to mandate the electronic limiting of commercial vehicle speeds,” Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Associations, said Friday in a statement. “Speed is a major contributor to truck accidents and by reducing speeds, we believe we can contribute to a reduction in accidents and fatalities on our highways.”

Spear’s group has called since 2006 for a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour for trucks.

However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents truck drivers not affiliated with major cargo companies said limiting the speeds of trucks and buses electronically would prevent drivers from keeping up with the speeds of other vehicles on the road.

“Highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same relative speed,” said Todd Spencer, the group’s executive vice president. “This wisdom has always been true and has not ever changed.”

Spencer said limiting the speeds of trucks electronically would prevent drivers from being able to accelerate to avoid trouble if necessary.

“No technology can replace the safest thing to put in a truck, which is a well-trained driver,” he said.

Transportation department officials in President Barack Obama’s administration said Friday that limiting the speed of the trucks and buses would reduce the number of accidents and deaths that occur on U.S. roadways.

“This is basic physics,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement. “Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.”

“Safe trucking moves our economy and safe bus operations transport our loved ones,” FMCSA Administrator T.F. Scott Darling III added. “This proposal will save lives while ensuring that our nation’s fleet of large commercial vehicles operates efficiently.”

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing