Crash that killed five Georgia students sparks push to lower big rig speeds

High speeds and big trucks are often a deadly combination on the nation's highways. 

Now, one prominent Senator is pushing hard to slow those semis down in the wake of a crash that killed five Georgia Southern nursing students.

The students, killed by an out-of-control semi, happened in April 2015. Troopers say the driver failed to slow down on I-16, leading to a fiery crash. The driver of the semi survived.

Now, Johnny Isakson, the senior U.S. Senator from Georgia, wants to keep those trucks from going faster than 65 mph.

“We'll put speed governors on all trucks at 65 miles an hour,” Isakson said. [That] controls the speed they'll go [and] keeps them under the speed limit, which is most times 70 [mph] but is far more safe for the people on the highways with them.”

Many major companies have already added speed governors to their trucks, and the Department of Transportation has been working for three years on a new rule requiring the devices.

So far, the amendment has passed the U.S. Senate. If the bill passes the Senate and the House of Representatives, the rule would go into effect nationwide within six months.

The Department of Transportation is planning to use technology to keep the big rigs from becoming highway hazards.

Action News Jax spoke to drivers who say they've seen close calls with semis on the highways — and they are glad someone's doing something to help prevent deaths.

“I’ve always been nervous driving next to a semi truck,” said driver Nina Parker.

Not surprisingly, many semi truck drivers oppose the law, saying the governors turn the trucks into "rolling roadblocks" and cause safety issues by limiting the trucks' ability to speed up to avoid accidents.  

But Isakson says there have been too many deadly crashes on the highways, and he wants the trucks to have a governor to limit their speed to 65 mph.

“We had a particular story at Georgia Southern where five coeds were killed when a runaway truck ran over them,” Isakson said. “I think a speed limit would be really good for them.”