Would Speed Limiters on Trucks and Buses Make Our Roads Safer or Just Slower?

stockfresh_791688_two-semi-trucks-on-the-highway_sizeS-300x200The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) are proposing a rule for heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks to be equipped with speed limiters (also called “speed governors”), preventing the vehicle from exceeding a set maximum speed. The maximum speeds suggested for the final rule are 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour. The government agencies involved say they will consider other speeds after receiving input from the public.

Speed limiters are being recommended in order to save lives and fuel costs. Heavy-duty vehicles inflict much more damage at high speeds than lighter-weight vehicles, so the hope is that capping speeds will reduce truck accident fatalities and serious injuries. According to NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, “This is basic physics…. Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx mentioned that the proposed rule could have benefits beyond improving road safety. He stated, “In addition to saving lives, the projected fuel and emissions savings make this proposal a win for safety, energy conservation, and our environment.” The federal government estimates that speed-limiting devices would save around $1.1 billion annually in fuel costs, and millions of gallons of fuel.

Is Slower Safer?

The theory – and the hope – is that reducing the speed of large commercial vehicles will decrease the damage done on impact when one of these large vehicles collides with another vehicle or person. The proposed speed limiters have support from the American Trucking Association (ATA), Road Safe America (RSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), along with a number of private trucking companies.

Another argument for restricting the speed of large trucks is the fact that at least 14 states in the U.S. have speed limits that are higher than the safety rating for truck tires. According to the AP, truck tires are not designed to go faster than 75 miles per hour, and exceeding that limit can cause the tires to blow out.

Opposition to the Proposed Rule

Even some who support installing the speed limiters are concerned that if the maximum speed is set too slow or too far below the average speed of traffic, that it will make safety worse instead of better. But the rulemaking process gives organizations and companies in the industry an opportunity to submit their comments and opinions, and they can give input on what the maximum speed should be.

The proposed rule has found some opposition in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents small-business truckers. The group criticized the proposed rule, saying it will lead to more truck and bus accidents and an increase in road rage. They take issue with the fact that limiting the speed of heavy-duty vehicles will mean that traffic will move at different speeds and that the drivers will not be able to get out of a dangerous situation by accelerating freely. The executive vice-president of OOIDA, Todd Spencer, states, “Highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same relative speed…. This wisdom has always been true and has not ever changed.”

The government is currently accepting comments from the public on the proposed rule at www.regulations.gov.

If you have been in an accident with a commercial vehicle, contact our personal injury attorneys in Western North Carolina (including the communities of Asheville, Waynesville, and Franklin) or Upstate South Carolina (including the communities of Greenville and Spartanburg) so we can try to help you get back on your feet.

 

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