U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx backed a proposal on Friday to put speed limiting devices on all new U.S. trucks, buses and multipurpose passenger vehicles weighing at least 26,000 pounds.
The devices would be set to a required maximum speed, which could save lives and more than $1 billion in annual fuel costs, Foxx said in announcing the proposal. About 1,115 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks occur each year, the government said.
The devices would be “a win for safety, energy conservation and our environment,” the former Charlotte mayor said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made the proposal. Both are part of Foxx’s department.
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Maximum speeds could be set at 60, 65 or 68 mph, but the agencies will consider other speeds based on public input over the next two months.
Motor carriers operating commercial vehicles would have to maintain the speed limiting devices at or below the designated speed for the service life of the vehicle.
Charlotte is a major trucking center. About half of the nation’s top trucking firms have locations here, including nine of the top 10, according to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Charlotte is the only major distribution center midway between the Northeast, Midwest and Florida markets, according to the chamber.
To James Chapman, a big rig driver from Spartanburg, S.C., 68 mph would be the best option, and he’d accept 65. But 60 would be too big of a difference from cars that go 75 or more.
“To me, it would be a safety hazard unless it slowed everybody else down,” Chapman told the Associated Press while refueling his truck on Friday along Interstate 75 near Findlay, Ohio.
The agencies said limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 60 mph could save as many as 498 lives annually. Limiting it to 65 mph could save as many as 214 lives, and limiting it to 68 mph could save as many as 96.
“Based on our review of the available data, limiting the speed of heavy vehicles would reduce the severity of crashes involving these vehicles and reduce the resulting fatalities and injuries,” the agencies say in their proposal.
But Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the 157,000-member Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, said her group has opposed the speed limiters because they create dangerous interactions between vehicles as faster cars slow down for trucks.
Still, another compelling reason exists to limit truck speeds. An investigation last year by The Associated Press found that 14 states, most of them west of the Mississippi, have speed limits for big trucks that are equal to or higher than their tires were designed to handle. Most truck tires aren't designed to go faster than 75 mph, and tire manufacturers say traveling faster than that can cause tires to fail and blow out, creating safety issues.
Most of the states with speed limits of 80 or above either didn’t know about the truck tire speed ratings or didn't consider them. States set their own speed limits, having been given sole authority to do so by Congress in the mid-1990s.
Submit comments about the speed limiting proposal at www.regulations.gov.
The Associated Press contributed.