Truck Speed Limiters: Boon or Bane?


August 8, 2017 / Truck Accidents

A new transportation rule may soon impact your life: It has been proposed by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that vehicles over 26,000 pounds must be outfitted with a device capping the vehicle’s maximum speed. Essentially, all large trucks would have their top speed regulated by a technological add-on. Both the NHTSA and the FMCSA think that this new rule would, in addition to saving lives, save more than $1 billion in fuel costs. It sounds like a win for all, doesn’t it? But a number of trucking industry organizations believe that speed limiters will save neither lives nor money.

What Would the New Rule Do?

The details about this new federal rule are as follows:

  • All newly-built vehicles whose weight exceeds 26,000 pounds must have speed-limiter devices installed.
  • It is still under discussion whether maximum speeds should be set at 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour.
  • The issue of the exact maximum speed is unresolved because it depends on input from both the trucking industry and the public.

Most think that the new rule is one big plus for safety and fuel efficiency. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx commented in a release, “There are significant safety benefits to this proposed rulemaking. In addition to saving lives, the projected fuel and emissions savings make this proposal a win for safety, energy conservation, and our environment.”

The Trucking Industry Disagrees with NHTSA/FMCSA

A number of organizations have come out against the new rule. The nonprofit National Motorists Association Foundation insists a mandatory maximum speed that cannot be changed by the driver would result in:

  • Increased congestion due to inability to increase speeds when needed
  • A slowdown in moving freight traffic (70 percent of U.S. freight moves by truck)
  • An unproven amount, if any, of fuel savings
  • An unproven increase in safety and fatalities reduction.

Additionally, the Foundation insists that such control rightly belongs to the states, not the federal government, and that a “natural flow” of traffic is far more important than absolute miles per hour when it comes to achieving optimal traffic flow and safety.

Others who echo these concerns include the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Associations (OOIDA), which thinks that slowing trucks down would mean an increase in interactions between vehicles—in other words, more accidents.

Trucking Fatalities

First, you should know that one in ten deaths on the road occur because of a large truck crash.

Second, we have 2015 data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) that was analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The bottom line is that there were 3,852 fatalities in large-truck crashes during 2015. Almost seven in ten deaths (69 percent) were persons in passenger vehicles. Truck occupants added up to 16 percent of deaths, and 15 percent of fatalities involved pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

Third, in crashes involving large trucks, the percentages of deaths have been decreasing for those in the trucks but increasing for those who are not. Increasingly, it is safer to be in a large truck than operating a passenger vehicle of any kind.

Is speed involved when it comes to changes in crash fatalities? A fully-loaded 18-wheeler traveling 10 miles above the speed limit will strike another vehicle with greater impact than if the driver were not speeding. And a heavier vehicle will strike a smaller one with more force, creating the potential for more deaths. These statements are not opinions—they are the physical laws of the universe. A heavier vehicle traveling faster will always hit something else with more force than one that is lighter and traveling more slowly.

If we could save lives by limiting the speeds of large trucks and other commercial vehicles, then the new rule concerning speed-limiting technology would benefit all of us.

When others breach their duty, we keep ours.

Indiana truck accident cases can be complex legal claims that require thorough investigation and demand aggressive litigation to secure the best possible outcome for the plaintiff. While monetary compensation can never undo the damage done as the result of a truck accident, a financial recovery can ease the financial burdens caused by overwhelming medical bills, loss of income, and disability.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer or other large truck, we suggest you talk with Indianapolis truck accident lawyer Mike Stephenson. With more than three decades of experience, substantial financial resources to commit to your case, and a commitment to the highest standards of client care, you can count on Mike. Contact him today by calling 1-317-825-5200 for a free accident consultation, or use our online contact form.

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