WASHINGTON — An owner-operator-backed bill aimed at preventing a speed mandate for trucks is getting heavy pushback from safety groups aligning with small-business trucking’s big-business competition.

A coalition that includes Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, the National Safety Council (NSC) and Road Safe America are lobbying lawmakers to oppose the Deregulating Restrictions on Interstate Vehicles and Eighteen Wheelers Act, known as the DRIVE Act, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month.

The proposal, which would prohibit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from issuing a planned rulemaking requiring trucks to be outfitted with speed governor devices, was immediately opposed by the American Trucking Associations, whose members — many of them — have already invested in such devices for their fleets.

Safety groups are aligning with major trucking companies, warning that the bill would be a major setback at a time when fatalities from truck crashes are on the rise.

“Since 2009, truck crash deaths have increased by 71% with over 5,700 lives lost and nearly 155,000 injured in 2021 (the most recent year for which data is available),” the groups state in a letter to the leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Fatalities to large truck occupants (largely truck drivers) surged past 1,000 for the first time in nearly 40 years.”

The coalition, which also includes The Trucking Alliance, a group backed by major truckload carriers, and The Road to Zero Coalition, an NSC-managed coalition of cities, counties and state governmental agencies, points out that “arbitrarily stopping FMCSA from this rulemaking process would compromise the agency from pursuing its stated mission — to reduce large truck crash injuries and fatalities.”

According to a recent Trucking Alliance survey, 98% of the 62,000 trucks operated by the group’s member carriers use speed limiter technology, they told lawmakers, with maximum speed settings ranging from 61 mph to 70 mph.

In addition to safety benefits, members of the coalition point to economic advantages of installing speed limiters on fleets.

“Aside from the research that shows speed limiters to be highly effective at reducing high-speed collisions, there is ample real-world use by leading trucking companies that show speed limiters diminish a company’s crashes and improve their profits,” said Road Safe America Co-Founder Steve Owings in a separate statement, referring presumably to money saved by reduced fuel use and other cost savings.

Speed limiters were a topic of debate at a Capitol Hill hearing this week. Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which backs the legislation, argued that studies find having different speed requirements for cars and trucks make the roads less safe. In addition, slowing down goods movement will require more trucks to move the same amount of freight, adding to congestion, Pugh said.

Asked to comment on the coalition forming against the bill, OOIDA underscored the potential for more accidents resulting from speed differentials.

“Nobody cares about road safety more than truck drivers,” said OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer in a statement.

“Truckers know this mandate will take safety in the wrong direction. The most significant step the trucking industry could take to improve road safety is to keep experienced, safe drivers in the workforce, so we challenge those who signed this letter to work with us on increasing driver compensation, ensuring restroom access, and expanding truck parking.”

Related articles:

FMCSA revs up plan to mandate speed limits on truck engines

Truck crash deaths jump 13% to ‘crisis’ level

NHTSA truck brake rule under review at OMB

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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