Truck­ers: Speed caps will cause crashes, jam high­ways

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - MARKETPLACE - By Tom Krisher AP Auto Writer

DETROIT >> Truck­ers are warn­ing that a govern­ment plan to elec­tron­i­cally limit the speed of tractor-trail­ers will lead to high­way traf­fic jams and pos­si­bly an in­crease in deadly run-ins with cars.

More than 150 peo­ple, most iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as in­de­pen­dent truck­ers, have filed com­ments re­cently with the govern­ment about the pro­posed rule, un­veiled last month by two fed­eral agen­cies. There were only a few com­ments in fa­vor.

The govern­ment has pro­posed re­quir­ing elec­tronic speed lim­iters on all trucks and buses over 26,000 pounds man­u­fac­tured after the reg­u­la­tion goes into ef­fect. Speeds could be lim­ited to 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour when the rule is fi­nal­ized after a com­ment pe­riod that ends Nov. 7.

Reg­u­la­tors and oth­ers fa­vor­ing speed lim­iters say the rule is sup­ported by sim­ple physics: If trucks travel slower, the im­pact of a crash will be less se­vere and fewer peo­ple will be in­jured or killed. But truck­ers say the govern­ment is ac­tu­ally cre­at­ing con­di­tions for more col­li­sions by fo­cus­ing on the sever­ity of the crash while ig­nor­ing the dy­namic of trucks and cars trav­el­ing at dif­fer­ent speeds.

The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion an­a­lyzed data from 2004 through 2013 and found that on av­er­age 1,044 peo­ple died per years in crashes in­volv­ing heavy trucks on roads with speed lim­its of at least 55 mph.

The agency also found that if trucks speeds were lim­ited to 60 mph, 162 to 498 lives per year would be saved be­cause the im­pact of a crash would be less se­vere. At 65 mph, up to 214 lives would be saved, and as many as 96 would be saved with a 68 mph limit.

But truck­ers says slow­ing them down in­creases the chances of trucks be­ing hit from be­hind by cars al­lowed to go 70 mph or more. Todd Spencer, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the Owner-Op­er­a­tor In­de­pen­dent Driv­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, the largest group of in­de­pen­dent truck­ers, says most car-truck crashes on free­ways where traf­fic is go­ing the same di­rec­tion in­volves a car rear-end­ing a truck.

“The net ef­fect of their rule means that the truck will be run­ning slower still,” Spencer said. “That’s a crash sce­nario that’s more se­vere.”

Doug Kruzan, a driver from Simp­sonville, South Carolina, near Greenville, said he’s seen cars hit the back of slower trucks many times as the rigs move into the left lane to pass. “A car’s com­ing up be­hind him at 70, 75. They can’t slow down that quick. He’s go­ing to run into the back of that truck ev­ery time,” said Kruzan.

NHTSA sta­tis­tics show that of all the fa­tal crashes — not lim­ited to free­way driv­ing — be­tween big trucks and pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles in 2014, the lat­est year avail­able, about 15 per­cent in­volved cars rear-end­ing large trucks, ac­cord­ing to NHTSA sta­tis­tics. The Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­ported that of 438,000 crashes in­volv­ing large trucks in 2014, the front of the truck was the im­pact point in 38 per­cent of them. The rear of the truck was hit in 24 per­cent.

Many truck­ers say all ve­hi­cles should be lim­ited to the same speed, but a NHTSA spokesman said that’s not be­ing con­sid­ered. He would not com­ment on Spencer’s al­le­ga­tion that the govern­ment ig­nored the im­pact of var­ied speeds.

Truck­ers also say if the rule is adopted, trac­tor­trail­ers will try to pass each other at sim­i­lar speeds, caus­ing “block­ades” that will clog traf­fic and frus­trate car driv­ers. What’s more, they say, be­cause the rule isn’t retroac­tive some truck­ers will try to pro­long the lives of older trucks that oth­er­wise would be re­placed by newer mod­els.

Truck­ers are warn­ing that a govern­ment plan to elec­tron­i­cally limit the speed of tractor-trailer rigs will lead to high­way traf­fic jams and even an in­crease in deadly runins with cars al­lowed to travel at faster speeds.

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