ATA seeks to limit speed on new trucks at 68 mph

The American Trucking Associations today, Oct. 20, filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require that newly built large trucks be equipped with tamper-resistant speed limiters that would govern top speed at 68 mph. The association also asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to prohibit tampering with governors so that they could travel faster than 68 mph. The petition comes as no surprise as ATA’s board of directors approved the action more than eight months ago.

Although ATA believes limiting the speed of trucks will produce safety benefits, the group’s broader objective is to highlight the speed issue for all highway users. “We believe this goes a long way toward a national dialogue on excessive speed,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, in announcing the petition at a Washington, D.C., press conference. “This is something we are proud to lead on.”

The proposal for speed limiters to be set at 68 mph is consistent with ATA’s policy supporting a national speed limit of 65, Graves said. A vehicle limit of 68 mph provides a safety cushion allowing for safe passing, ATA says. In addition, a majority of carriers that currently limit vehicle speed do so at 68 mph or below.

“Many are already there,” agreed Pat Quinn, co-chairman of U.S. Xpress and current ATA chairman. “Responsible carriers realize that speed is the No. 1 killer on the nation’s highways.”

Mac McCormick, CEO of Best Way Express and ATA’s first vice chairman, acknowledged that the proposal isn’t uniformly popular – even within ATA’s own membership. “But it’s the right thing to do.” McCormick also argued that a speed limiter was needed to level the playing field. “If a guy speeds, that’s a competitive advantage, in my mind, at the expense of the traveling public.”

ATA’s petitions follow an earlier petition submitted to FMCSA by a safety advocacy group known as Road Safe America and several major trucking companies. Although that petition also proposed 68 mph as the limit, it would require that all engines equipped with electronic control modules be set to govern top speed at 68 mph. Among other penalties, failing to have the truck governed would be an out-of-service item in a roadside inspection.

Graves said ATA is not supporting that approach because the board’s consensus was that focusing on newly manufactured equipment would make the controversial proposal more acceptable to the broadest constituency. Also, because any qualified technician could change the settings on today’s ECMs, a new tamper-proof chip really is needed to make the speed limiter meaningful, ATA says. The federal government, however, typically has not required retrofitting when it changes vehicle standards, and ATA doesn’t encourage a change in that approach.