Feds urge speed limiters to reduce large trucks crashes
To reduce injuries and deaths, a safety group has renewed calls for the federal government to impose a 65 mph speed limit on large trucks.
Road Safe America, an Atlanta, Georgia-based nonprofit, urged people on Facebook to contact members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to push the Department of Transportation to set the 65 mph ceiling for big trucks.
Studies examining the relationship between travel speed and crash severity have confirmed that the impact of a crash increases with increased travel speed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Road Safe America is a group started by the parents of Cullum Owings, 22. He was killed in a car vs. semi truck crash in 2002 on Interstate 81 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, according to CDL Life, a trucking news website.
Speed Limiting Devices
Some, but not all, trucking industry groups support the 65 mph speed limiter proposal. The administration of President Donald Trump so far has decided against pursuing the speed limiter rule.
Speed limiters consist of sensors that detect the vehicle’s speed and communicate that to the engine’s computer. The computer restricts the flow of air and fuel to the engine and the sparks that cause combustion.
The 65 mph speed limit would apply to trucks that are federally classified as Class 8. These are trucks that under federal guidelines have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of over 33,001 pounds.
The vehicles in this class are more than heavy-duty. Typically called “severe duty,” Class 8 applies to cement trucks, dump trucks and big trucks made by Freightliner, Kenworth and Peterbilt, according to Fullbay.
Semi-trailer trucks (“semi”), which are the combination of a tractor unit and one or more semi-trailers to carry freight, are Class 8 trucks.
The GVWR relates to the maximum truck weight plus what it’s able to carry fully-loaded. That includes the truck’s own weight plus the fuel, cargo, passengers and even the trailer tongue, according to the diesel website the TruckStop. Tongue weight refers to the downward force that the tongue of the trailer applies to the hitch of the tow vehicle.
- Class 1, 2 and 3 trucks are light-to-medium-duty, like Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado pickup trucks
- Class 4 to 6 are medium-duty, or full-size, pickup and commercial trucks,like those used for emergency responses, towing and cargo box transport
- Class 7 is a heavy truck, like a bucket truck that a utility uses to fix a power line.
Trucking Groups Weigh-In
Among supporters of the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019 are the Truckload Carriers Association, the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security and US Xpress.
The American Trucking Associations said that it was reviewing the legislation but that for over a decade it has supported a 65 mph speed limiter.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes speed limiters, saying that such devices would decrease highway safety by increasing interactions between large trucks and passenger vehicles. The higher variance of vehicle speeds in traffic flow increases the risk of an accident, and speed limiters cause speed variance, according to the association.
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