Federal regulators move to limit speeds of large trucks and buses

Last Updated Sep 6, 2016 3:52 PM EDT

On average, roughly 740 people per year die in accidents involving large trucks where speed was a factor. Now federal safety regulators believe they could save some of those lives by requiring devices that would limit how fast trucks and buses could go.

Cullum Owings, a 22-year-old college senior was killed by a speeding semi-truck.

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Cullum Owings, 22, was killed by a speeding semi-truck

Owings Family

“That morning when we went to church he talked to me about the application for the Peace Corps, and he said ‘Dad you know a lot of people apply for this because they know will look good on their resume. I want to get in because I want to do the work,’” said Owings’ father Steve.

Regulators are moving to require all new vehicles weighing at least 26,000 pounds to use speed limiting devices. The rule would apply to large buses and tractor trailers.

The government believes that limiting the top speed to between 60 and 68 miles per hour will save lives.

Big rigs are more likely to jackknife, fail to stop quickly, topple over or otherwise be out of control at high speeds. The goal is to prevent or limit the severity of crashes.

The proposal has the support of the trucking industry. But Steve Owings said it does not go far enough, because many existing big rigs already have the technology to limit speeds, and they too should be required to use it.

“Over a million people have died and been maimed in these types of crashes while we wait for this inadequate rule, only applying to future trucks? It’s preposterous,” Owings said.

However, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association broke with the trucking industry, calling the proposal “dangerous” arguing it would limit drivers ability to accelerate to avoid a situation on the road.   

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said he supports the idea behind the proposed rule.

“I do think the fundamental point that the rule is making is absolutely right, which is that there are technologies that are going to help us keep our speeds in moderation, and that’s going to be overall better for safety,” Foxx said.

The proposed rule can still be modified before it becomes final.

Ontario, Canada instituted a rule in 2009 that requires big rigs to have limiters set at 65 miles per hour. Officials credit the technology with a 24 percent drop in fatalities in the first year.