New York Sen. Chuck Schumer Thursday urged federal transportation officials to require the use of technology that would force big rig trucks to slow down.
At a news conference alongside the Long Island Expressway in Roslyn Heights, Schumer, a Democrat, called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to enact a proposed rule that would mandate the installation of speed-limiting devices in large trucks, buses and school buses weighing more than 26,000 pounds.
“Capping speed in a safe and reasonable way will make this expressway and everyday driving safer,” Schumer said, as large trucks roared behind him on the LIE. “We have to push the feds to accelerate its adoption.”
In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed installing the devices on large vehicles and requiring them to be set to a maximum speed.
Schumer said adopting the proposal could save hundreds of lives each year. Crashes involving large trucks nationwide in 2014 killed more than 39,000 people and injured 111,000 more, according to federal officials.
A DOT spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday, but referred to an August statement from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in which he spoke of “significant benefits” from the speed-limiter proposal.
“In addition to saving lives, the projected fuel and emissions savings make this proposal a win for safety, energy conservation, and our environment,” Foxx said.
About 70 percent of trucking companies already use electronic speed limiters, according to the American Trucking Association, an Arlington, Virginia-based industry trade group.
In a statement Thursday, the association said it has historically been “pro-safety” but remains concerned with several parts of the federal proposal, which they said is vague on what speed limits would be placed on trucks and does not address differences in speed limits from state to state.
That could mean that in some states, cars would travel “at much higher speeds than commercial trucks,” association officials said.
“A mandate for a one-size-fits-all speed limiter will squelch innovation in technologies to enhance safety and accommodate not only highways, but potentially secondary roads and beyond,” said Chris Spear, president and chief executive officer for the trucking association.
Addressing the differences in speed limits, Schumer said “a truck going 80 miles per hour is just as unsafe in Utah as it is in New York City.”