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Truck group backs speed restrictions

Truck group backs speed restrictions

Published: 7/5/2009  2:29 AM
Last Modified: 7/5/2009  3:55 AM

A trucking safety group wants big rigs restricted because of the deadly seven- vehicle pileup on the Will Rogers Turnpike a week ago.

Support for speed restrictions is coming from a surprising source: the American Trucking Association.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on Thursday defended the visibility and construction of the turnpike where Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials said a tractor-trailer rig crashed into a line of cars stopped for an accident. Ten people died.

"We don't have any concern for visibility," authority spokesman Jack Damrill said.

Federal standards determine turnpike construction and speed, he said.

Eric Guy questioned the highway construction of the accident area, north of Miami, Okla., where he's traveled during his 15 years as a truck driver.

"It's hilly. If you're driving an 80-ton vehicle where that line was, it would be hard to stop on a dime," he said. "It was like a full-loaded freight train barreling down the track. They can't stop on a dime, either."

The National Transportation Safety Board has had seven investigators at the accident scene, a spokeswoman said. One investigator, with the turnpike authority and highway engineers, looked at roadway design plans, profiles and accident statistics.

Patrol reports say 76-year-old Donald Creed of Ash Grove, Mo., was driving at an unsafe speed for traffic conditions when the accident occurred. The speed limit there is 75 mph.

More than 6,000 5- and 6-axle
trucks daily took that stretch of turnpike in 2008, the authority's most recent figures show. More than twice that many cars, 13,687, drove along that stretch.

Two sides agree

A nonprofit group, Road Safe America, said the wreck points to the need for a national requirement that large trucks use electronic speed governors set at 65 mph.

"How much longer and how many more deaths is it going to take before the federal government takes action to require activation of on-board electronic speed governors to keep the speed of these enormous vehicles down to a reasonable 65 mph?" co-founder Stephen Owings said in a statement.

The American Trucking Association supports legislation requiring the maximum 65 mph, said spokesman Clayton Boyce.

He said about 70 percent of the association's truck governors are set at 65 mph or below.

The association supports a national speed limit for all vehicles of 65 mph. Limiting trucks to 65 mph while cars could go 70 or 75 mph wouldn't be a sound idea, Boyce said.

Owings also wants a closer look at when truck drivers should stop driving.

The reports

Creed, who is out of the hospital, had a clean driving record before the accident.

National Transportation Safety Board reports typically take many months to complete.

The district attorney is waiting for the highway patrol report, expected to take about three weeks, before deciding on whether to file misdemeanor negligent homicide charges on Creed.

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