Will Truck Speed Limiters Improve Safety on the Highway?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have proposed a new rule that will require vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds to be outfitted with a device that caps the maximum speed at which the heavy-duty vehicle can travel. Effectively, this means all large trucks. It is believed that the new rule will save lives as well as over $1 billion in fuel costs. But several organizations that are part of the trucking industry think that installing speed limiters on trucks will not save either lives or dollars.

Large Truck Fatality Figures

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crunched some numbers for us when it comes to traffic fatalities and large trucks. According to 2015 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 3,852 people died in crashes involving large trucks that year. Of those killed, 69 percent of them were passenger vehicle occupants; 16 percent were truck occupants; and 15 percent were motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.

The 2015 large truck fatality figures are 22 percent higher than the number of deaths recorded for 2009, the year with the lowest recorded number of large truck fatalities since data collection began in 1975. The year 1979 holds the record for the greatest number of fatalities in large truck crashes. Since then, the percentage decline in deaths of large truck occupants has been larger (56 percent) than the percentage decline in deaths of passenger vehicle occupants (37 percent).

One final interesting fact: approximately one in ten deaths on the highway involves a large truck.

The Details of the New Rule

The new NHTSA/FMCSA rule would require all newly-manufactured vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds—trucks, buses, and multiuse passenger carriers—to have speed limiting devices installed. Because certain benefits accrue to various maximum speed settings, the proposed rule discusses whether speeds should be set at 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour. It’s possible other speeds might be considered, depending on input from the public and the industry.

Some believe that the new rule is a no-brainer. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind pointed out, “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.”

Disagreement from the Trucking Industry

Much of the trucking industry disagrees with the NHTSA and the FMCSA. In fact, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Associations (OOIDA) believes that using speed limiters would cause more accidents, because it could lead to trucks traveling more slowly than the general flow of traffic, thus increasing the chances of interactions between vehicles. Other objections that have been raised state that speed limiters would increase traffic congestion, would slow down the delivery of freight, and would not produce any of the projected fuel savings. The National Motorists Association Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has argued that a natural flow of traffic does more to save lives and move freight efficiently than limiting trucks to specific set speeds.

There is no denying that, in an accident, an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer would hit another vehicle with much more force, and with a greater potential for fatalities, than a 4,500-pound SUV or pickup truck would. In fact, the impact would be nearly 18 times greater because of the weight difference. If limiting the speeds of large commercial vehicles could save lives, then implementing the new speed-limiting technology would be beneficial for us all.

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Truck accidents can be extremely complicated both because of the large amounts of money often involved and because of the potential for multiple defendants. It is important to consult with a qualified South Carolina truck accident lawyer to make sure your rights are protected. If you’ve been in an accident with a truck, the Louthian Law Firm can help make things right. We’ll deal with the insurance companies on your behalf to help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, repair bills, lost income and any other financial costs that the accident caused. Where appropriate, we’ll also seek compensation on your behalf for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses. With our hands-on approach, you’ll get exceptional results.

For a free and confidential evaluation of your case, call the South Carolina vehicle accident lawyers today at 1-803-454-1200, or use our online contact form.