News Releases

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Isakson, Coons Introduce Bipartisan Truck Safety Legislation

Legislation would codify lifesaving rule that has languished 10 years

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Coons, D-Del., today introduced bipartisan legislation to enact a lifesaving road safety measure for heavy trucks by codifying a pending “speed limiter” rule that has languished in the federal bureaucratic process for 10 years.

The Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019, S.2033, would require all new commercial trucks with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more to be equipped with speed-limiting devices, which must be set to a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour and be used at all times while in operation. The maximum speed requirement would also be extended to existing trucks that already have the technology installed. Trucks without speed limiters will not be forced to retroactively install the technology.

“The majority of trucks on our roads already have speed-limiting technology built in, and the rest of the technologically advanced world has already put them to use to ensure drivers follow safe speeds,” said Isakson. “This legislation would officially enforce a long-awaited speed limit of 65 mph on large trucks and reduce the number of preventable fatalities on our busy roadways.”

“Senator Isakson has long been a leader in advancing highway safety,” said Coons. “I am pleased to introduce legislation with him that will help reduce accidents on our roadways by requiring the use of speed limiting technology in large trucks – a step that many companies have already taken to promote safety and fuel efficiency.”

The legislation also establishes that all large trucks manufactured after the effective date shall be equipped with speed-limiting technology. Further, within six months of enactment, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation must establish standards and rules to ensure that the speed-limiting technology on large trucks is accurate and that the trucks adhere to a maximum speed no faster than 65 mph.

According to the Department of Transportation, the “speed-limiter rule” would have minimal cost, as most heavy trucks already have these devices installed, although some vehicles do not have the 65 mph limit set. The department has also found that the rule would decrease the estimated 1,115 fatal crashes a year involving vehicles with a weight of 26,000 pounds or more on roads with posted speed limits of 55 mph or more.

The full text of the legislation can be found here.

The Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019 has been endorsed by Road Safe America, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation, Parents Against Tired Truckers, the Trucking Alliance, the Truckload Carriers Association and the Truck Safety Coalition.

“When our son Cullum was killed on his way back to college with his brother Pierce after spending Thanksgiving at home with us, we became forever heartbroken parents. At the time, we were unaware that speed limiters were already being built into big-rig trucks as a standard capability, but American truck drivers were not required to use them. Once we learned that this technology, which could have saved our son, was available and in use by many leading U.S. companies, we founded Road Safe America to educate the public and change things like this,” recalled Steve Owings, president and co-founder of Road Safe America. “It has not been easy revisiting our grief regularly to do so, but the introduction of S.2033, is a testament to the power of facts. We are extremely thankful to Senator Johnny Isakson, for working with us on this issue over the years and for taking the lead on this life saving, common-sense legislation.”

“Large commercial motor vehicles traveling at high speeds pose a grave danger on our highways, and over 1,000 lives are lost annually on average due to speeding commercial motor vehicles,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety applauds Senators Johnny Isakson and Chris Coons for introducing the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019, a bill that would make speed limiting technology mandatory in large trucks. We urge Congress to quickly enact this legislation which will undoubtedly prevent crashes, save lives and reduce devastating injuries.”

“When my wife, daughters-in-law, and mother-in-law were killed on I-75 in Chattanooga by a speeding truck driver who was high on meth, I knew my life would never be the same. When I tried to make sense of it all, I struggled to understand how a life-saving technology like speed limiters, which have been built into trucks since the 1990s, was not required to be used,” said Rick Watts, of Morristown, Tenn., a volunteer with Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation. “There would be minimal to no additional cost for original equipment manufacturers, which already include this technology in their trucks, to be required to have speed limiters installed. Moreover, there are many economic benefits of setting at a speed of 65 mph, including lower crash rates, less maintenance and better fuel efficiency. I am thankful Senators Isakson and Coons recognize that while most truck drivers are honest, hardworking, and safe, we need to use existing tools to prevent the worst actors from using speed as a competitive advantage that can have devastating consequences.”

“A speeding truck driver, who had fallen asleep, killed my son Orbie in 2002. His car was contorted beyond recognition due to the speed, and I constantly wonder if my son would’ve survived had the truck’s speed had been lower at the time of impact,” said Linda Wilburn of Weatherford, Okla., a board member of Parents Against Tired Truckers. “While truck crash deaths are up 41% nationally since 2009, the 12 states with truck speed limits of 75 miles per hour or more saw truck crash fatalities skyrocket by 65%. In other words, 539 more people died in truck crashes in 2017 in these high speed states than in 2009; that’s more people than the entire Congress. I am so grateful that Senators Isakson and Coons are introducing this legislation so that other parents don’t have to grapple with this question, and, more importantly, the reality that makes one ask it: the preventable loss of their child.”

“We’re confident Congress will pass this bill and help reduce large truck crashes in which more than 140,000 people were killed or injured last year,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance, a safety coalition of transportation and logistics companies.

“The Truck Safety Coalition is proud to support this important and long overdue legislation that will require National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to swiftly finalize the heavy vehicle speed limiter rule that will limit truck speed at 65 mph. This critical safety measure, which has languished for more than 10 years, will put an end to the practice of protecting companies that rely on speeding to remain competitive,” said Harry Adler, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition. “We commend Senators Isakson and Coons for introducing S.2033, and we look forward to working with them to focus our efforts on implementing data-driven solutions to address the worsening truck safety trends.”

Background: 
The Department of Transportation delayed the rulemaking of the “speed limiter rule” more than 20 times since it was first proposed in 2011. After a number of unnecessary delays, a proposed speed limiter rule was approved by the Office of Management and Budget and ultimately published by the U.S. Department of Transportation for comment on Sept. 7, 2016. However as currently written, the rule would only apply to new trucks despite the fact that the majority of existing trucks already have the speed-limiting technology built into their systems. 

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