Can’t drive 75: ATA calls for factory limits on truck speed

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The American Trucking Associations wants new Class 7 and 8 trucks governed at 68 mph when they leave the factory, the group announced at its annual winter meeting Tuesday, Feb. 14.

“There has been a growing sense within the trucking industry for the need to slow down the large truck population as well as all traffic,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “With speeding as a factor in one third of all fatal highway crashes, it makes all the sense in the world to work to reduce this number.”

The effort to govern speeds at 68 mph came after ATA members and safety experts studied the issue. ATA’s speed management working group found 75 percent of the trucks it evaluated had speed governors, and most of those were set at 70 mph or lower. The group recommended that the ATA call for factory-set governors at 68 mph. ATA’s board approved the group’s recommendation on Valentine’s Day.

But the move is getting no love from the industry’s largest owner-operator group. “We think this is public relations,” says Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “This is not about safety at all. Most accidents that involve trucks don’t take places on roads that have high speed limits. They take place in city congestion where speed is not a factor.”

ATA said it will work with OEMs and government regulators to determine the best way to implement factory-set governors and to ensure those devices are not reconfigured after trucks leave the factory. Buyers could ask that governors be set lower than 68 mph, ATA said.

Spencer said all truckers — not just owner-operators — will be displeased with the move and questioned whether ATA’s working group had its facts straight about the number of trucking companies with speed-governed trucks. “The overwhelming majority of trucking companies out there are not members of ATA,” Spencer adds. “This (policy) is proof-positive these people probably don’t know a truck driver.”

ATA and OOIDA represent different segments of the trucking industry, and have long held opposite views on some issues. OOIDA says truckers should be able to drive the posted speed limit, while speed control has been a popular ATA safety issue for several years: The group recently asked for enforcement groups to crack down on speeding trucks and cars.