New push for big rig speed limiters

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GENESEE COUNTY(WJRT) - (04/22/15) - For nearly a decade, the nations' largest trucking industry group has proposed limiting the top speed of heavy commercial vehicles.

While efforts have stalled in Congress, there's a new call to establish a national speed limit for all big rigs.

Safety is the number one goal, according to the American Trucking Association, who would like to see speed governors or limiters placed on all heavy vehicles.

Traffic on Mid-Michigan highways flows like a river, with a mix of passenger and commercial vehicles.

Vehicle safety has fueled the American Trucking Association's drive to slow truckers down to 65 mph, especially in states where the speed limit has risen to 80 mph or more.

"Statistics have shown that faster you go, the longer it takes to stop, the more distance traveled before you realize something is wrong, so safety is one of the primary issues," said Phil Whitmer, dean of Baker College Transportation & Technology.

While many factors can be considered, tires play a big role.

"Ninety-five percent of the truck tires have a speed rating of 75 mph. That's the maximum speed of the tire. Anytime you get up there, depending on the weight that you're hauling, anytime you get up to that maximum speed, chances of the tire failing greatly increase," said Bill Florkowski, manager at Jerry's Tires.

That failure can come from over-heated tires that can fail from exposure to long periods of both higher speed and heat, especially in southern states.

Other factors come into play as well.

"The weight and the speed greatly affect the structural integrity of the tire, especially with unstable loads, your liquid loads, your gasoline tankers for instance," Florkowski said.

While there are safety and fuel benefits from going slower, over the road haulers we talked with don't think limiting truck speed is a good idea.

"It's just like when you go to pass a car. You always want a little bit more to get by the car. I think 6 5mph is fast enough in this area of the country. When you get out in Texas and it's flat and there's no traffic or a lot less traffic, then you should be able to run 70 mph," said Don Pardee, a retired trucker and Baker Driving instructor.

Pardee adds that there are many different factors to consider as to how fast a driver should be allowed to go, including weather, road conditions and traffic.

"One size don't fit all," he said.

While the current speed limit for trucks is 60 mph in Michigan, 5 mph below the proposed limit, some efforts are underway in the House of Representatives to raise both passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles by as much as 10 mph on some highways.

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