Feds propose forcing speed limits on large trucks, buses

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Federal regulators are considering a new rule that would electronically block large commercial vehicles from speeding on U.S. roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Friday proposed a rule that would equip all heavy-duty vehicles with electronic devices that limit their speeds.

{mosads}Speeds for trucks, buses and other vehicles weighing more 26,000 pounds could be capped at 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour, but regulators indicated that they are willing to make their final decision based on public input.

The agencies argue that the safety measure would save hundreds of lives and cut down on $1 billion in fuel costs each year.

“This is basic physics,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement. “Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.”

A number of trucking groups and carriers have long urged NHTSA to propose a rule that would require speed limiters on large commercial vehicles.

“We are pleased NHTSA and FMCSA have, almost 10 years after we first petitioned them, released this proposal to mandate the electronic limiting of commercial vehicle speeds,” said Chris Spear, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations (ATA). “Speed is a major contributor to truck accidents and by reducing speeds, we believe we can contribute to a reduction in accidents and fatalities on our highways.”

ATA had petitioned the NHTSA for a 68 mile per hour cap in the past, but the group says it supports a 65 mile per hour speed limit and will be filing comments on all the potential options.

Many lawmakers also wanted the rulemaking.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) successfully attached an amendment to the fiscal 2017 transportation spending bill that would require regulators to publish a rule within six months requiring speed limiting technology for heavy trucks.

“Every day that has passed that this commonsense safety measure has been delayed by bureaucratic processes is one too many,” Isakson said in a statement. “I’m pleased to finally see movement by the administration to put forward this lifesaving rule.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, however, says the government’s proposal would be dangerous for all highway users.

“Highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same relative speed,” said Todd Spencer, the group’s executive vice president. “This wisdom has always been true and has not ever changed.”

–This story was updated at 2:13 p.m.

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