Bill Targets Truck Drivers in Georgia's Super Speeder Lawby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/19/2016
On Thursday the trucking industry had the opportunity to voice its opposition to tougher speed limits for truck drivers on Georgia highways. Rep. Ron Stephens had introduced a bill proposing tougher restrictions in response to last year’s crash that killed five nursing students. The semi-truck driver had failed to slow down as he approached a stretch of backed up traffic and smashed into two vehicles carrying the nursing students to a training session in Savannah.
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“This is a very small opportunity for us to take out the very heavy trucks. Typically when they’re involved in an accident, they have a tendency to squash you like a bug. It’s different from a two-car accident,” said Stephens during a hearing before the House Motor Vehicle Committee. His proposal is to make truck drivers in 100,000-pound, commercial vehicles subject to an additional $200 “Super Speeder” penalties on top of regular fines when they are caught going 10 mph over the speed limit on Interstate highways. The current law sets the trigger at 20 mph and Stephens says it would remain the same for cars, non-commercial buses, vans and smaller trucks.
Jay Morgan spoke on behalf of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association and argued against the bill. “You are preparing to create adichotomous system if a trained, professional driver is a super speeder at 10 miles over the speed limit — which is very often the normal flow of traffic on Georgia’s interstates. But an untrained, amateur driver, no matter what they’re driving — even an 80,000-pound vehicle — is not a super speeder until 15 mph or more,” Morgan said. He followed by citing statistics indicating that 7 out of 10 truck/car crashes are caused by the drivers of cars. Morgan also pointed to studies showing that the safest driving conditions are when traffic flows at about the same speed.
Veteran truck driver Dan Matthews also took the floor and spoke from his first hand job experience driving commercial trucks since the 1970s and as a safety trainer for YRC Freight. He explained to the committee that many commercial trucks have governors on the engines preventing them from accelerating above 65 mph. He also pointed out that classifying a truck driver as a “super speeder” would make it difficult to get a job with a reputable company and this would be a major setback when the country is already dealing with a shortage of 40,000 drivers. “The last thing we should do is take away the livelihood of the people willing to do it,” he said.
The committee took no action on the bill during Thursday’s hearing. It requires them to approve it before it can be passed on for the full House to vote.