Senators urge DOT to limit truck speeds after deadly South Georgia crash

Georgia's Republican U.S. senators urged the Secretary of Transportation today to move forward on a long-delayed regulation to require speed limiting technology on tractor trailers, in response to last month's crash that killed five Georgia Southern University nursing students.

Wrote Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx:

"For far too long, crashes like this have highlighted the fact that the safety requirements that Congress has required and that have been discussed with you on a number of occasions are desperately needed on our country’s roads.

"We are aware that according to your regulatory calendar, as well as in repeated hearing statements, you have committed to issuing the final rule from the Department of Transportation on electronic logging and the proposed rule on speed limiter settings for our heaviest trucks within the next few months.

"The speed limiter ruling in particular has the potential to drastically decrease the number of high-speed and runaway truck accidents across the country. In addition, the Department itself has stated that this rule would have minimal cost and would decrease the estimated 1,115 annual fatal crashes.

"It is unfortunate that we have to read about another tragedy such as the one in Georgia on the front pages of our hometown newspapers while the Department continues to delay the issuance of its rule for this common sense safety measure – originally scheduled to be released in August of 2011 – that could have reduced the violence of the crash and may have even saved the lives of these five young ladies."

The April 22 crash on I-16 sparked mourning on campus and in the Atlanta area, as well as a wrongful death lawsuit.

But the issue is nothing new for Isakson, who has tried to accelerate the regulations for years. Though it's unusual for Republicans to push the Democratic administration for a new regulation, the industry actually asked for it.

Some background from the Trucking Industry Defense Association:

The impetus for the mandate dates back to 2006, when American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America submitted petitions to the government, saying the mandate would make highways safer and reduce fuel consumption. ...

[In an April U.S. Senate hearing] Foxx attributed the delays in part to needed safety data and safety benefits research to support the rule. ...

In 2006, ATA asked the agency to require heavy trucks not only to install the speed limiters, also known as governors, but to limit truck speeds to 68 mph. In 2008, it adjusted the request to reduce truck speeds to 65 mph.

There were 163 traffic fatalities in Georgia involving a large truck in 2013, according to federal data, the most recent year available. That represented a small fraction of the 1,179 total fatalities.

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