55 MPH Speed Limit

It is my understanding that reducing the nationwide speed limit to 55 MPH has been gaining some support.

Here is what I wrote to both of my Senators, John Warner and Jim Webb about this issue:

Dear Senator,

I am sending identical correspondence to both of my Senators.

I have heard that attempts to lower the speed limit to 55 are being seriously considered. I wish to communicate some of my concerns about this.

First, I am a self employed (independent contractor) truck driver. I do not claim to speak for all truck drivers, trying to do so would be like trying to herd cats. However I do believe that my concerns do address the best interests of the trucking industry as a whole and the needs of the American economy.

I estimate that a nationwide 55 MPH speed limit would result in an immediate decrease of the trucking industry's total freight hauling capacity of about 15%. If the legal speed limit is 55, a truck driver can only legally then log 55 MPH in his/her travels. The result will be a reduction in the maximum number of miles an individual truck driver can travel (and a reduction in salary) and thus if the total number of truck drivers is not increased, a decrease in the total number of freight miles the trucking industry can provide to the American economy as a whole is the

Now, since I pay for my own fuel, and I will acknowledge that a decreased speed limit will result in fuel savings, I would benefit somewhat from a decreased speed limit. Not enough to compensate for the gross revenue lost from total miles travelled mind you, but I would see some savings never-the-less. I might also benefit from increased freight rates brought about from reduced total freight capacity. However an additional consideration needs to be included. Are higher freight rates really a good thing for the American economy? Will the trucking industry still be able to meet the American market's demands when the economy improves?

Let me tell you that if the economy and the freight market ever returns to what we experienced during what I describe as the Clinton economy, it will be hopeless. Back then, shippers were begging trucking companies to haul their freight and we had a difficult time meeting our customers needs. Even if the speed limit is not decreased, it will be difficult for the trucking industry to provide the level of service we did back then. If the speed limit is decreased (unless we think out of the box while doing so) it would be impossible.

First let me explain what the trucking industry is facing without a speed limit decrease. A significant number of present drivers are baby boomers. As these baby boomers are starting to retire, members of succeeding generations are not lining up to take their place. Yes there are some younger truck drivers, however they are not taking up the trade in large enough numbers to replace all of those getting ready to

Decreasing the productivity of each remaining truck driver is not exactly wise.

However increasing the capability of the trucking industry to haul the same amount of freight with a reduced amount of fuel is a desirable outcome. This is best for reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing our Greenhouse Gas emmissions.

But how can we achieve this desireable outcome, reduction in fuel consumption by the trucking industry, without shooting any future economic recovery in the foot? I previously stated that you need to start thinking outside the box. Are you ready for original thinking?

First you have to be ready to take on transporation safety groups suchs as CRASH (Citizens for Reliable And Safe Highways) and PATT (Parents Against Tired Truckers).
What would be required for the existing trucking industry to provide continuing levels of service to the economy with a decreased speed limit? Increase the number of hours per day (on average) that a truck driver is allowed to drive. I would suggest that instead of limiting truck drivers to 70 hours within 8 days, that truck drivers be allowed to drive 80 hours within 8 days. Also it would be required to increase the maximum number of hours per day a driver could drive from 11 hours to 12hours and increase the "14 hour clock" to 15 hours.

The above suggestions are not a strong opening position to start negotiations with. Even the above changes, with a decrease of the speed limit to 55, will force the trucking industry (and their customers) to increase their efficiency. The above suggestions are the compromise that safety groups should be forced to accept.

It could be pointed out to safety groups that if 40 tons on the highways hits something at 55 less damage will be done then if 40 tons hits it at 65 or even 75. Decreasing the speed limit does have some desirable safety impacts (pun intended), however the entire job still needs to be done.

Let me also point out that a decrease of the speed limit to 55 in rolling hills and mountains might also serve to actually increase fuel consumption. If the decreased speed limit is not accompanied by intelligent enforcement, you are going to hinder what you are trying to achieve (decreased fuel consumption). A Smoky Bear (state trooper) sitting at the bottom of the hill rigidly enforcing 55 upon truck drivers attempting to get the forces of gravity to increase his fuel mileage would only increase fuel consumption. The truck driver spent all that fuel fighting gravity to the crest of the hill. If he/she is not then allowed to enlist gravity for increased fuel mileage on the way down? If the driver is forced to ride his brakes all the way to the bottom of the hill you are going to see less then maximum fuel efficiency.

We need to consider that America's freight still needs to be hauled after any change takes effect. If you are really interested in increasing the fuel efficiency of the trucking industry, I have an idea that I feel I could prove would yield better fuel efficiency from truckers without any decrease in the speed limit. But to explain/defend my idea would require me to get even longer winded then I have been here. Let me warn you that if want to even consider my "new idea" you better be ready to think WAY outside the box and be willing to really be a true leader. If
you are not willing to be a trail blazer, do not even ask me to explain, extreme leadership would be required to overcome entrenched opposition.

Let me warn you that any response I receive from you might be published on the internet on my blog. Not many people read my blog, but I am publishing this
correspondence to you, and I am apt to publish the response as well.


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