The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has issued a firm rebuke after a recent request by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) to require speed limiters on semi trucks.
The ATA, in partnership with safety group Road Safe America, sent a letter to new U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling for transportation officials to enact a rule requiring speed limiter devices on all vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds. The ATA also suggested mandated speed limits of 60 m.p.h., 65 m.p.h. or 68 m.p.h. for vehicles with speed limiters.
The ATA has called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to enact a speed limiter rule several times since 2006. In 2016, the FMCSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making on a speed limiter mandate. At the time, the ATA opposed the rule over concerns about highway safety due to speed differentials, but the agency says that the advancement in truck safety technology that has occurred in the past few years has quelled those concerns.
In response to the ATA letter, OOIDA sent their own letter to Buttigieg asking him to put the brakes on the speed limiter mandate.
OOIDA argues that putting speed limiters on trucks will “increase congestion and speed differentials between trucks and cars, which ultimately lead to more crashes. Additionally, arbitrary speed limits make it difficult for truck drivers to switch lanes to accommodate merging traffic at entrance ramps – or to merge themselves.”
The group also says that speed limiters would give larger carriers an unfair advantage over smaller fleets and owner-operators. From the letter to Buttigieg:
As part of the proposed rulemaking on speed limiters, FMCSA and NHTSA admitted that “this joint rulemaking could put owner-operators and small fleet owners…at a disadvantage in some circumstances.”3 One remaining competitive advantage for small trucking companies over their larger competitors is the lack of a need to speed limit trucks for fleet management purposes. Instead, small trucking businesses are able to operate at the speeds determined to be safe by state officials, which in many cases is above 65 mph. Indeed, FMCSA and NHTSA concluded that as a result of losing this advantage, “some of the affected owner- operators would work for trucking companies as independent contractors. If all of the affected owner- operators worked for trucking companies as independent contractors, they would lose $54 million in labor income.” Smaller carriers working at the behest of the larger fleets is not ideal for safety, consumers, or the trucking industry.
The OOIDA video below explains why speed limiters could spell trouble for highway safety.