Drive Act

DRIVE Act: Protecting Truck Drivers’ Freedom on the Road

In recent trucking news, the DRIVE Act, a crucial piece of legislation aimed at safeguarding the rights and safety of commercial truck drivers, is gaining significant momentum. This bill is designed to prevent the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) from imposing speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks, a proposal that has stirred up a considerable debate within the trucking community.

The DRIVE Act, officially known as HR3039, has been steadily accumulating support in the House of Representatives. With 30 co-sponsors on board, including Reps. Zachary Nunn, R-Iowa; Chuck Edwards, R-N.C.; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., who joined the cause this month, its importance is becoming increasingly evident. This bill, if passed, would effectively prohibit the FMCSA from enforcing any rule or regulation that mandates speed limiters on commercial motor vehicles.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), representing small-business truckers, stands firmly in support of the DRIVE Act. With a membership of over 150,000 dedicated truck drivers, OOIDA is actively encouraging its members to rally behind the bill and urge their respective lawmakers to become co-sponsors. Their argument is straightforward: speed limiters can lead to dangerous speed differentials, and the regulation of speed limits should remain the prerogative of individual states.

“The physics are straightforward – limiting trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles and leads to more crashes,” stated OOIDA President Todd Spencer when the DRIVE Act was first introduced earlier this year. This sentiment echoes the concerns of many truck drivers who have voiced their opposition to the FMCSA’s speed limiter proposal.

In the previous year, the FMCSA initiated an advance notice of supplemental proposed rulemaking, contemplating the requirement for commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more to be equipped with speed limiters. While the top speed limit was not determined at the time, previous discussions had considered options such as 60, 65, and 68 mph. Recently, the FMCSA hinted at proposing a 68 mph top speed limit; however, it swiftly retracted this decision, indicating that no final decision had been reached.

Nevertheless, the overarching sentiment among truck drivers remains one of resistance towards any speed limiter mandate. Over 15,000 comments were filed in response to the FMCSA’s proposal, with the majority of them expressing truck drivers’ strong opposition. Their concerns center on the hazards posed by speed differentials, especially in regions where speed limits can reach as high as 85 mph.

“I oppose the speed limiter mandate,” wrote truck driver Thad Thurlow in his comments to FMCSA. “Speed differentials create unsafe conditions. Some states have already come to that conclusion and abolished their speed differentials. Limiting all trucks to the same speed will create more congestion as trucks pass each other, and cars have to move around them. Congestion leads to more frustration and drivers making riskier decisions to get through traffic.”

The DRIVE Act, introduced by Rep. Josh Brecheen, R-Okla., on May 25, aims to address these legitimate concerns. In an interview with Land Line Now, Brecheen emphasized the extreme speed differentials that speed limiters would impose, labeling the potential mandate as a “waiting accident to happen.” He pointed out the inherent dangers when a truck with a 30 mph speed difference from other vehicles is suddenly rear-ended, especially when carrying a heavy load like an excavator.

“You have states with 85 mph speed limits, and then you have someone texting and driving and not paying attention and then rear ends (the truck),” Brecheen explained. “Let’s say that tractor-trailer has an excavator on the back … there’s no opportunity (to correct) going 30 mph less when that person gets rear-ended … That’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about here – a 30 mph difference because one is limited by federal law, and the other is traveling 30 mph faster because of state law.”

In the Senate, Sen. Daines, R-Mont., introduced the counterpart to the DRIVE Act, known as S2671, on July 27. While the bill is making strides in gaining support, it’s worth noting that, so far, only Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors. In an interview with Land Line Now, Senator Daines emphasized the importance of grassroots efforts to attract bipartisan support.

“It’s really important that the grassroots get out there and make their calls and put pressure on key senators in states we can persuade so that we can get some Democrats on this bill,” Daines said.

As the DRIVE Act continues to gather momentum and support, it’s important to delve deeper into the reasons behind the widespread opposition to speed limiters among truck drivers. The concerns voiced by these hardworking individuals who crisscross the nation’s highways are rooted in their daily experiences and safety considerations.

One of the primary concerns is the potential for speed limiters to create dangerous speed differentials. In the world of trucking, speed differentials refer to the variation in speeds between different types of vehicles sharing the road. Imagine a scenario where a truck is limited to 68 mph due to a federal mandate, while passenger vehicles can legally travel at speeds of up to 85 mph in some states. This stark difference in speed can lead to increased interactions between vehicles and, consequently, a higher risk of accidents.

Truck drivers argue that this increased risk is not just theoretical but has the potential to manifest in real-world scenarios. For instance, when a truck limited to 68 mph encounters a passenger vehicle traveling at 85 mph, the speed differential is a staggering 17 mph. In the event of sudden braking or unexpected obstacles, the slower-moving truck may have limited options for avoiding a collision, especially when carrying a heavy load. This discrepancy in speed can lead to rear-end collisions, which are particularly hazardous when trucks are hauling heavy cargo.

Moreover, the trucking industry is characterized by its complex and varied nature. Different regions of the United States have vastly different speed limits, reflecting the unique traffic conditions and infrastructure of each area. Some states, primarily in the western and rural parts of the country, have speed limits as high as 85 mph on certain stretches of their highways. These high-speed zones are intended to accommodate the flow of traffic and the long distances between destinations, factors that are inherent to trucking.

However, imposing a uniform speed limit on trucks would disregard these regional variations. Truck drivers who traverse the nation encounter a patchwork of speed limits, and adhering to a single, federally mandated speed limit could disrupt the natural flow of traffic. This could result in increased congestion, with trucks having to pass each other more frequently, and passenger vehicles attempting to navigate around slower-moving trucks. Such congestion not only hampers the efficiency of freight transport but also creates a breeding ground for frustration and riskier driving behaviors among all road users.

In essence, the concerns raised by truck drivers against speed limiters are rooted in a genuine desire for road safety and practicality. They argue that safety should be a priority, but it should be achieved through thoughtful measures that take into account the unique dynamics of the trucking industry and the varying conditions across states. Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all solution, they advocate for a more nuanced approach, allowing states to set speed limits that align with their specific road and traffic conditions.

As the DRIVE Act gains traction in Congress, it is becoming increasingly clear that the trucking community is committed to ensuring the safety and efficiency of their industry. The bill represents a united effort to protect the interests and well-being of truck drivers across the country. While the debate over speed limiters continues, the voices of truck drivers, their associations, and supporters of the DRIVE Act will continue to advocate for a balanced approach that addresses safety concerns without imposing undue restrictions on the trucking industry.

In conclusion, the DRIVE Act is a significant legislative proposal that has garnered substantial support among lawmakers and the trucking community. Its aim to prevent the FMCSA from mandating speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks is rooted in the concerns of truck drivers who are on the frontlines of the nation’s highways. These concerns revolve around the potential dangers of speed differentials, the complexity of the trucking industry, and the need for regional flexibility in setting speed limits.

As the bill progresses through Congress, it is crucial to consider the input and experiences of truck drivers who dedicate themselves to delivering goods across the country. Their voices play a pivotal role in shaping the future of trucking regulations and ensuring that safety measures are both effective and practical. The DRIVE Act represents a united effort to strike a balance between safety and the smooth operation of the trucking industry, and its progress will undoubtedly continue to be closely monitored by those who depend on the open road for their livelihoods.



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