Could Proposed Speed Limiters on Semi-Trucks Save Lives?

NHTSA Proposes Speed Limiters on Heavy Trucks

A few weeks ago, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMSCA, have both proposed adding speed-limiting devices to heavy-duty vehicles, including semi-trucks and 18-wheelers. According to both agencies, the move would save lives, cut energy costs and save more than $1 billion in fuel costs per year. While organized trucking companies approve of the proposal, owner-operators oppose it.

Truck Accident Facts and Statistics

Without question, the best benefit of imposing a maximum speed on heavy trucks through speed-limiting devices, or governors, is that many lives could be saved. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, heavy-duty trucks weigh 20 to 30 times as much as regular cars, and it takes them 20 to 40 percent farther to come to a stop. In 2014, 3,660 people died in large truck crashes. Sadly, this figure is 16 percent higher than in 2009, which had the lowest number of truck accident fatalities since records started being kept in 1975. Also in 2014, 11 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths involved large trucks.

How it Would Work

In their proposal, the two agencies recommended requiring heavy truck manufacturers to equip vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or higher with speed-limiting devices. Those devices would then have to be set to a maximum speed, which has not been determined yet. However, the proposal considers the benefits of setting the top speed to 60, 65 and 68.

At a maximum speed of 60, it is estimated that up to 500 lives could be saved per year. Up to 550 serious injuries could be prevented, and more than 10,300 minor injuries could be avoided. Incredibly, this max speed would shave approximately $1.5 billion off of the costs that are associated with increased delivery times and would save about $848 million in fuel each year.

Severe federal civil penalties would be imposed on those who violate the requirement, with drivers being fined up to $2,750 and employers being fined up to $11,000 per incident.

Will the Proposal Become Reality?

The American Trucking Association supports the proposal and actually adopted a policy recommending speed-limiting devices in 2006. Also, carriers who have voluntarily started using the devices have reported fuel-efficiency, equipment lifespan and safety benefits. Still, not everyone is happy. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes it, stating that speed is only a factor in fatal heavy truck accidents 8 percent of the time. Also, the organization claims that the resulting speed differential between cars and heavy trucks would create more conflicts and crashes, thus negating any benefits.

Slower is Safer

One only needs to consider basic physics to understand why placing speed-limiting devices on heavy trucks is a good idea. Even minor increases in speed have a huge effect on the force of impact in the event of a crash. Should this proposal be adopted, perhaps truck accident attorneys will have less work to do–and wouldn’t that be nice? If you’ve been injured in a Florida big rig accident, contact the truck accident attorneys at David & Philpot today. We will review your case at no cost and consult with you about the next steps to take.