Although a proposal to mandate speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks aims to make the road safer, Sen. Steve Daines says it would have the opposite effect.
That’s why Daines, R-Mont., introduced the DRIVE Act, which would prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from mandating speed-limiting devices on commercial motor vehicles.
“This is a bill that I think is common sense, and it doesn’t take long to make the argument around why (speed limiters) would actually create more dangerous driving conditions,” Daines said in a recent interview on Land Line Now. “You always try to understand why the other side is doing this. They think they are going to make the roads safer. That’s the reason they want to put this mandate in place. We can make a very clear argument around why it will actually create more unsafe conditions. It will have unintended consequences.”
Last year, FMCSA issued an advance notice of supplemental proposed rulemaking that considers requiring commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more to be equipped with speed-limiting devices. A top speed was not determined in the advance notice, but previous proposals floated the possibilities of 60, 65 and 68 mph.
FMCSA is expected to unveil a formal proposal that includes a top speed later this year.
Opponents of a mandate argue that a top speed of 60 mph, for instance, would create as much as a 25 mph difference between the legal speed for cars and trucks in certain parts of the nation. The OOIDA Foundation points to research from Dr. Steven Johnson and the University of Arkansas that says the frequency of interactions with other vehicles increases 227% when traveling 10 mph below the speed of traffic.
“You fit trucks with these speed-limiting devices, it will increase congestion and create – in my opinion and from others who have studied this – more dangerous conditions by creating more differences in speed for the vehicles on the road,” Daines said. “While I think these bureaucrats in Washington think they’re making our roads safer, I believe they will actually make our roads less safe because of this overreaching rule.”
In recent years, several states have moved away from split speed limits between cars and trucks because they determined it was safer to have all vehicles traveling at the same speed.
“The speed limit across most interstate highways in Montana is 80 mph,” Daines said. “That’s the right level for Montana. A different level may be needed for a more congested state, but that’s where we’re at in Montana. So imagine these bureaucrats in Washington dictating basically where truckers need to drive in Montana when they’ll be well below the moving traffic levels. That actually creates more unsafe conditions. This is about standing up for the rights of the states.”
Rep. Josh Brecheen, R-Okla., introduced the House version of the DRIVE Act this past May. HR3039 already has 27 co-sponsors.
Daines introduced the Senate version, S2671, on July 27. Despite lawmakers being gone for the August recess, the bill has eight co-sponsors.
“I think the average person is going to look at and see that it’s going to create unsafe driving conditions,” Daines said. “You have slow-moving trucks and fast-moving vehicles. The truck is on the road for longer periods of time. That’s not a good thing.”
So far, the DRIVE Act has only partisan support. Daines asked truck drivers to reach out to their lawmakers about the issue in hopes of getting more support on both sides of the political aisle.
“It’s really important that the grassroots get out there and make their calls and put pressure on key senators in states we can persuade so that we can get some Democrats on this bill,” Daines said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the DRIVE Act.
“The ATA, Trucking Alliance and other speed-limiter supporters believe they’re better suited to determine safe speeds for all highway users, rather than state DOTs,” said Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs. “Congress delegated this authority to the states nearly 30 years ago, and they have been moving away from the dangerous split speeds the mandate would create ever since.” LL