DOT proposes truck speed limiter rule

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Cullum Owings of Georgia was sitting in a Thanksgiving weekend traffic jam when a tractor-trailer on cruise control came speeding from behind -- crushing him to death.

“He was a great guy and [it was] a huge loss to a lot of people," said Cullum's father, Steve Owings.

The incident prompted Owings and his wife to start “Road Safe America.” In the 14 years since Cullum's death, the organization has pushed for regulations to make highways safer.

Right now, the U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing a rule to require the heaviest trucks to set their speed limiters -- also known as speed governors – at 65 miles per hour.

“This proposed rule for the speed governors, incredibly, would only apply to new, meaning future-manufactured, trucks," explained Owings. "Even though the capability has been standard on them since the 1990s.”

Road Safe America wants the proposed rule extended to existing trucks, but not everyone agrees.

“What’s being proposed are arbitrary reductions of the speeds that trucks will travel on the safest roads in our country," said Todd Spencer of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Spencer thinks the regulations will lead to road rage.

“[Drivers] will be frustrated with the notion of being behind a truck and engage in unsafe passing to get on down the road," said Spencer.

Spencer says there should be stricter training requirements for new truck drivers.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the Senate passed a resolution designating the Sunday after Thanksgiving as “Drive Safer Sunday.”

“We’re going to focus on the trucking companies and every individual looking to drive safely, watch their speed, and not contribute to the number of highway deaths we have every year during the holidays," said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who sponsors the resolution each year.

The DOT has extended its public comment period for the proposed speed limiter rule. You can find more information in the link box on the top, right-hand side of this story.

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