A bill requiring speed limiters for commercial trucks has been introduced within the U.S. House of Representatives, and has been named the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act.
The act will aim to urge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure all commercial motor vehicles have speed-limiting technology implemented onboard. This technology would either have a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour preset, or a speed of 70 miles per hour preset in collaboration with a truck’s automatic emergency braking systems and adaptive cruise control systems.
The bill currently has bipartisan sponsorship by Representatives Lucy McBath of Georgia and John Katko of New York, and is named for Cullum Owings. Owings was killed when a tractor-trailer on cruise control struck his passenger vehicle in 2002.
“The safety and security of our families, our friends, and our loved ones is always of the utmost priority,” said McBath when the legislation was first introduced in late May. “The Owings family has done so much to protect other children like Cullum, and I want to thank them for all they have done. This is an important, bipartisan step to make our roadways safer, protect drivers, and stop these heartbreaking crashes from happening.”
Cullum’s father, Steve Owings, co-founded the safety organization Road Safe America following the incident, and believes the act will help prevent other parents of children from experiencing a loss like the one he and his family had to endure.
“Our lives changed forever in the worst of ways after a speeding truck driver using cruise control crashed into our son’s car, [which was] stopped in an interstate traffic jam as he headed back to college after Thanksgiving Break,” said Owings. “Back then, Susan and I were completely unaware that most large trucks already had speed limiter technology built in, which could have saved our son’s life had it been used. We are so thankful to Representative McBath for understanding the grief of losing a child and for introducing the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act to ensure other families do not suffer the same needless loss we deal with every day because of speeding big rigs.”
The bill was submitted for consideration to a committee of jurisdiction, and gained support from Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia during its previous Congressional session. Now, many freight stakeholders have begun backing the legislation, and Road Safe America, along with American Trucking Associations, requested support for speed limiter guidelines from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earlier in 2021.
In their letter to Buttifieg, the groups noted the 2016 rule making proposal that requested a speed limiter rule, as well as the recent updates within driver assist safety technologies. In the 2016 proposal, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration urged for a requirement that would ensure speed-limiting devices be implemented onto trucks, buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds. Additionally, maximum top speeds were recommended in the proposal–of 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour.
It is clear that ATA is worried about strict regulations regarding speed limitations for all commercial motor vehicles.
“When the Department of Transportation initially published the 2016 notice of proposed rule making, ATA and many motor carriers shared several concerns about the efficacy of a one-size-fits-all solution applied to a sector as complex and nuanced as trucking,” wrote ATA President Chris Spear and Road Safe America in their letter to Buttigieg. “Foremost among them were the unintended and potentially dangerous consequences of limiting commercial drivers to one universal speed limit despite the varying limits set for passenger vehicles on interstate and secondary roads.”
The groups added that they were particularly worried about the rule’s longevity as safety technology continues to evolve and more and more commercial trucks are receiving regular tech upgrades than ever.
“Another question is how such a rule would adapt to the rapid evolution taking place in vehicle safety technology,” the letter continued.