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Senators offer bill to limit heavy truck speeds to 65 mph

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In this Wednesday, August 24, 2016, file photo, truck and automobile traffic mix on Interstate 5, headed north through Fife, Wash., near the Port of Tacoma. Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would electronically limit tractor-trailer speeds to 65 miles per hour, a move they say would save lives on the nation’s highways. Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons introduced the measure Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Associated Press: TED S. WARREN)

WASHINGTON — Two U.S. senators have introduced a bipartisan bill that would electronically limit tractor-trailer speeds to 65 miles per hour nationwide, a move they say would save lives on the nation’s highways.

Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced the measure June 27, saying it would take the place of a proposed Department of Transportation regulation that has “languished in the federal process” for over a decade.

The bill is called the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019, named after Cullum Owings, who was killed by a speeding tractor-trailer during a trip back to college in Virginia after Thanksgiving in 2002.

Based merely on history, it is unlikely the bill will ever get out of committee.

Like many other bills that deal with a single issue, the sponsors only hope of passage is if the bill is attached to a broad-based bill such as a transportation reauthorization bill or an appropriations bill.

The legislation proposed by Isakson and Coons would require all new commercial trucks with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more to be equipped with speed-limiting devices, which would have to be set to a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour and would have to 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 bill’s authors said.

The majority of trucks on U.S. roads already have the speed-limiting software built in, but it’s not always used. Most other countries already use it to cap truck speeds, Isakson said in a statement.

The measure also would circumvent the Trump administration’s Department of Transportation, which has delayed any action on the proposed rule indefinitely as part of a sweeping retreat from regulations, which the president says slow the economy.

The rule, which didn’t propose a top speed but said the government had studied 60, 65 and 68 mph, has been at a standstill since it moved through the public comment stage in November of 2016 toward the end of the Obama administration. The next action on the rule is listed as “undetermined” on a federal website.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one of the Transportation Department agencies that proposed the regulation, said in a statement Friday that it received many public comments expressing concerns about the analysis supporting the rule. The agency “will work to ensure that any future decision intended to advance public safety will be grounded in sound analysis,” the statement said. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the other agency that proposed the speed limiters rule.

When the regulation was proposed, the DOT wrote that limiting truck speeds to 65 mph would save 63 to 214 lives per year. The bill’s sponsors say that there are 1,115 fatal crashes every year involving heavy trucks on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher.

The law also could solve another problem: Most heavy truck tires aren’t designed to travel over 75 mph, but some states have 80 mph speed limits. If the trucks exceed the tire speed rating, it can cause blowouts and crashes.

The Truckload Carriers Association supports speed limiters.

“The speed of all electronically governed Class 7 and 8 trucks manufactured after 1992 should be governed at a maximum speed not to exceed 65 miles per hour,” the association’s official policy says.

A spokesman for the American Trucking Associations said the ATA is in the process of reviewing the details of the bill.

“Our policies support speed limiters, but only do so in the context of more uniform national speed limits for all vehicles,” said Jeremy Kirkpatrick, ATA’s director of strategic communications. “As the national trend on speed limits moves in the opposite direction with increasing variance, federal speed limiter efforts must at a minimum account for speed differentials and any potential safety risks that they can create.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says that a speed limiter law would not reduce crashes.

“Most truck-related crashes occur on roads with posted speeds less than what is proposed,” said Norita Taylor, OOIDA director of public relations. “To improve highway safety, we support minimum training standards that include behind the wheel time and flexibility in Hours of Service regulations.”

The ATA was one of two organizations that petitioned the FMCSA and NHTSA for a speed limiter rule.

Road Safe America, formed by Cullum Owings’ father, Steve, after his son’s death, has been working to get a regulation in place.

Steve Owings blames the Transportation Departments in the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump for not seeing the rule through.

Isakson spokeswoman Marie Gordon said making the bipartisan legislation was a top priority for him “and we’ll be working hard to demonstrate that this is a commonsense idea that will protect millions of America’s drivers.”

“We’ve got an occupant in the Oval Office now who says he’s a businessman who believes in common sense,” Owings said. “God knows there’s not a whole lot the government can do that’s more commonsense than this.”

Associated Press sources contributed to this article.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Faelandaea

    July 7, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    Won’t be passed, which is good because it’s not needed. It’s been proven time and time and time again that vehicles going dangerously different speeds cause accidents. So what happens when we get a few 65mph trucks in 80mph traffic? Yup … accidents. Now marine ALL trucks going 65mph and mingling on a 80mph Highway with motorists. Disaster waiting to happen.

    Fortunately, as the article states, we’re safe because this will never pass.

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Can you say oversized load!

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That is big!

 

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Diesel prices all but stagnant nationwide, less than 2-cent shift anywhere

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The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide fell by 0.7 cents for the week ending July 22, to currently stand at $3.044 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The lack of movement in diesel prices continues a pattern that has been going on for the past month. On June 24, diesel was at 3.042, with changes of less than 1.5 cents every week in between.

Though tiny, the movement in diesel prices was nearly unanimous this past week, down in all but one region of the country.  That one exception was the Rocky Mountain region, where diesel rose 0.3 cents, to $2.978. Year-to-date, diesel prices are lower in every region, with the Rocky Mountain region again being the standout, having the greatest difference, 39.1 cents from this time last year.

California made it a clean sweep for lower diesel prices year-to-date with a drop of 1.3 cents this past week, to $3.939, still by far the highest in the country, but 0.4 cents below this time last year.

Along the rest of the West Coast, diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $3.198, bringing the overall West Coast average to $3.611 per gallon.

The average along the East Coast is currently $3.072, with prices highest in the Central Atlantic, where diesel is going for $3.259 after a 1.3-cent drop. Diesel is $3.122 in New England following a decrease of 0.9 cents over the past week, while in the Lower Atlantic region diesel slipped by 0.4 cents to stand at $2.937 per gallon.

That’s still slightly better than the Midwest, where diesel is going for $2.948 per gallon after a drop of 0.8 cents. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast, the low-price leader in diesel, fell by the same 0.1 cent it gained the week before to stand at $2.804.

On Monday, increasing tensions between Iran and Western countries failed to produce a sharp reaction in the crude oil markets. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents, or 1.57%, to settle at $63.45 a barrel. U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude rose 59 cents, or 1.06%, to settle at $56.22 a barrel.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

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DOL opinion letter: Time in sleeper berth does not count as compensable time

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The Department of Labor says the time a truck driver spends in the sleeper berth is not compensable time. Pictured in the Peterbilt 579 UltraLoft sleeper berth. (Courtesy: PETERBILT MOTORS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday said it had determined that time spent in the sleeper berth by professional truck drivers while otherwise relieved from duty does not count as compensable time.

The DOL issued the determination in a written opinion letter by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.

The American Trucking Associations lauded the opinion.

“ATA welcomes Monday’s opinion letter from DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton that concluded time spent by a commercial driver in the sleeper berth does not count as compensable hours under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unless the driver is actually performing work or on call,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This opinion, which is consistent with decades-old DOL regulations, the weight of judicial authority, and the long understanding of the trucking industry, clears up confusion created by two recent court decisions that called the compensability of sleeper berth time into question.

Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance, the DOL said.

Under prior guidance, the DOL said WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where “adequate facilities” were furnished, only up to eight hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours.

“WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable,” the opinion letter said. “There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.”

The ATA commended Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella and Stanton for adopting a straightforward, plain-language reading of the law, rather than the burdensome alternative interpretation embraced by those outlier decisions.

“ATA also commends the department for making guidance like this available through opinion letters, which provide an opportunity for stakeholders to better understand their compliance obligations prospectively, rather than settling such matters only after the fact, through costly and wasteful litigation,” Spear said.

 

 

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