Originally created 10/20/06

Big-truck slowdown plan gets big boost



ATLANTA - When the nation's largest trucking group announces support today for a plan to slow down its trucks, a Georgia man will have played a significant role in getting them there.

Steve Owings, who began crusading for big-truck safety after his son was killed in a wreck with a tractor-trailer, has been pushing for such a plan for the past several years.

"I'd like to think we might have been part of it," said Mr. Owings, of Atlanta. "We've just been talking and talking and talking on a number of levels."

He's done more than talk.

Late last month, Mr. Owings filed a petition with federal transportation officials asking that all tractor-trailers be equipped with a regulator that keeps their speed below 68 mph.

The petition was co-signed by representatives from several of the nation's largest trucking companies, which previously had opposed such a limit.

American Trucking Associations is expected to announce its support for the plan today at a Washington, D.C., news conference. Mr. Owings plans to be there.

Mr. Owings is the founder of Road Safe America, an Atlanta-based nonprofit devoted to driver safety, particularly among tractor-trailers.

It's a personal issue for Mr. Owings. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2002, his son, Cullum, was killed in a crash with a tractor-trailer that police said was speeding.

"I want to save other parents from getting into a nightmare that they'll never wake up from," Mr. Owings said.

The petition, filed with the federal Motor Carrier Administration, asks that the speed governors already installed on all new U.S. trucks be required to be set at 68 mph. Most major trucking companies already have set limits on their trucks - some of them even lower.

Don Osterberg, a vice president at Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider National, said the petition marks the first time a public safety group and the trucking industry have worked together on such a proposal.

As recently as last year, trucking groups such as the ATA argued that limiting truck speed actually increases danger because it makes it harder for truckers to distance themselves from other motorists.

But as research came in, Mr. Osterberg said it become more and more clear that reducing speed directly reduces the frequency and severity of accidents involving tractor-trailers.