Drivers who violate proposed laws mandating that their trucks be equipped with devices limiting speeds to no more than 70 miles per hour could have safety rating consequences even in states that have higher speed limits, a truck safety group points out.

The latest such proposal, the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act, was introduced in Congress on Tuesday by Reps. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., and John Katko, R-N.Y.

Text of the bill was not available, but according to the Trucking Alliance, a truck safety group that supports the bill, the legislation sets the maximum speed for all commercial motor vehicles at 65 mph, or 70 mph if the truck is equipped with adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking (AEB).

Trucks that were already operating with speed limiters installed would have to set the speed to a maximum 65 mph. Trucks manufactured without speed limiters would not be required to retrofit.

“This will be a new federal motor carrier safety standard,” Lane Kidd, the alliance’s managing director, told FreightWaves.

“So, if in Texas, where the maximum speed limit can be as high as 85 mph, the driver would be in violation of an FMCSA (Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration) safety standard, not the Texas speed limit, which can affect the driver’s safety rating.”

The bill mirrors legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2019 and also named for Owings, a 22-year-old Atlanta resident who was killed in a car-truck collision in 2002 while returning to college.

“Millions of motorists are within a few feet of 80,000-pound tractor-trailer rigs each day and there is no reason why that equipment should be driven at 75 or 80 or 85 miles per hour,” said Trucking Alliance co-founder Steve Williams, who is chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, a flatbed trucking specialist. “This legislation will reduce the severity of large truck crashes and make the nation’s roadways safer for our drivers and all of us.”

Also endorsing the legislation are the Truckload Carriers Association, the Institute for Safer Trucking, Road Safe America and the Safe Operating Speed Alliance.

The Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), however, has long opposed speed-limiter legislation, citing speed differentials between truck drivers and other road users that the group contends make roads less safe.

“Drivers hate speed limiters because of the operational and safety problems they create,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer in a letter sent to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in March. “Large carriers would love nothing more than to ensure every truck and carrier is stuck with these devices so their drivers stop fleeing for jobs at more trucker-friendly carriers.”

Spencer pointed out that the AEB and adaptive cruise control required for the 70 mph allowance included in the Senate and House bills are costly for his members.

“It’s not just the installation cost of these mandates; these systems can fail and require maintenance and other work leading to significant downtime and repair costs,” he told Buttigieg. “Even worse, our members’ experience with AEB has shown that it doesn’t improve safety but creates new challenges and dangers, such as false or unexpected system activation. These costs and challenges hit small businesses particularly hard, jeopardizing the existence of many of our members, who are often the safest drivers on the road.”

Related articles:

Speed limiters, automatic braking on NTSB Most Wanted List
U.S. Senators propose 65-mph truck speed limiters
Independent truckers speak out on National Mall

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.