Atlanta Father Works to Limit Speed of Heavy Trucks

“My rear-view mirror has turned into a time machine,” writes Steve Owings, an Atlanta financial planner and founder of RoadSafeAmerica.org. “Every now and then when I glance into it, I see my son Cullum backing out of our driveway, waving one last time as he pulls away. Then the truth comes crashing home again: I'm still here, and he's not.”

Owing’s son Cullum was killed in 2002 when a 70,000-pound truck that was traveling 7 miles per hour over the posted speed limit crashed into his car, which was stopped in traffic. Cullum’s brother Pierce, who was also in the car, explains that, in the rear-view mirrors, they watched the truck that was approaching too fast to stop.

“Cullum tried to pull onto the median to save us,” said Pierce.

But he could not avoid the heavy, speeding tractor trailer truck. The truck slammed the car into a stone embankment. Cullum died before emergency workers could pull him from the car. His brother Pierce survived.

“Sometimes when I glance into my rear-view mirror it takes me to another place, where I imagine what Cullum's life and ours might have been like if he had lived — a loving daughter-in-law? — the blessing of grandchildren who look like him? — a family, whole and complete, sharing everyday moments,” writes Ownings. “My wife Susan and I have suffered every parent's greatest horror. For the rest of my life, I'll be looking in my rear-view mirror.”

Road Safe America wants to see all heavy truck speeds limited by on-board computers known as speed governors. The simple computers limit the top speed of the truck. This would allow truckers to stop faster in emergency situations. Many trucking companies already use speed governors, and the companies say that they save money on fuel, longer-lasting equipment, and lower liability costs. However, many truck drivers and trucking companies still consider speed to be a competitive advantage.

RoadSafeAmerica.org presents a petition, which anyone can sign, that calls for a top speed of 65 miles per hours for trucks that weight more than 13 tons, required use of electronic on-board speed recorders, better working conditions for truckers, and safer methods of compensation for truck drivers.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports the petition. However, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association argues that speed governors may cause more collisions by limiting the power needed for last-minute maneuvers.

Road Safe America points out that the European Union, Japan, Australia, and the most populous Canadian provinces already require speed governors on heavy commercial vehicles. In Japan, the top speed is 55 miles per hour; it is 65 in Canada. Heavy tractor trailer trucks need 3 times the distance for braking compared to smaller cars, and reasonable top speed would give them a better chance of stopping before a collision. Speed governors also conserve fuel use.

What do you think? Should heavy commercial vehicles be required to have speed governors and on-board electronic monitors? Would this save lives?