Pros outweigh cons for 68-mph limit on speed governors

Oct. 23, 2006
The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) said a federal mandate to limit speed governor settings to 68 mph for over 26,000 lb. GVW would simply codify into law what most trucking companies already do—not radically change the industry

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) said a federal mandate to limit speed governor settings to 68 mph for over 26,000 lb. GVW would simply codify into law what most trucking companies already do—not radically change the industry. Specifically, ATA is advocating that tamper-proof speed governors be activated within the engine control module (ECM) of new heavy trucks at the time of manufacture to limit them to speeds of no more than 68 mph.

“About 75% of our members already have the engine governor on their trucks set at 68 mph or less,” David Osiecki, ATA vp-safety & operations, told FleetOwner at a Washington, DC, press conference to announce the group’s initiative.

“Sure, we’re going to have a ‘noisy few’ complain about this pre-set speed limit,” Patrick Quinn, ATA chairman and co-chairman or Chattanooga, TN-based U.S. Xpress Enterprises, told FleetOwner. Quinn said the engine governors on his fleet’s 7,500 power units have been set at 65 mph for 12 years. That road speed “cap” has affected neither driving nor business performance he said.

“We’ll take some flak on this [speed limit effort] – it’s not popular across our ranks,” said Mac McCormick, first vice chairman of ATA & chairman of Vincennes, IN-based Bestway Express. “But data shows that speed kills—it’s a significant contributing factor in highway accident deaths every year. We, as an industry, need to react to that. My own 400 trucks are limited to 68 mph because it’s the right thing to do.”

The ATA’s proposal is only for new trucks, however, as retrofitting older vehicles with tamper-proof chips would be too expensive, said Bill Graves, ATA’s president & CEO. “We felt there’d be a much greater political struggle, if you will, if we tried to retrofit this,” he noted. “The tamper-proof chip is not a technical challenge and we don’t expect any significant cost to be added to the vehicle because of it. In fact, the economic savings from fewer accidents and reduced fuel usage—outside the safety benefit to the public at large—makes this a very cost-effective effort.”

“New trucks get the heaviest use anyway,” added U.S. Xpress’ Quinn. “They drive the most miles in our fleet, as in most other fleets, so limiting their speed would produce the most [safety] benefit.”

Graves added that this initiative wouldn’t take place overnight. By his estimate, if the speed-limit rulemaking got put on a fast track, it would take two years to become law. If it goes through the normal process, it would take four years or more. Still, it’s a goal the ATA’s membership feels is worth pursuing.

“We strongly feel the mission of this industry is to not only move freight but to move it safely,” he said. “Living around Washington, DC, you see a good dose of excessive speeding every day – by cars and, unfortunately, some trucks as well. We hope this effort requesting a rulemaking by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will start a national dialog on the impact of excessive highway speeding. We’re going to lead without chin on this one, if you will, because we feel it’ll help focus an area of highway safety that hasn’t had a lot of attention.”

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