Recently, the White House Administration proposed a rule that would force truckers to have a device on their big rigs limiting their top speed.
The measure, proposed by the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggests using so-called speed limiters to cap maximum truck speeds at 60, 65 or 68 mph miles per hour, but the agencies said they will consider other speeds based on public input. The head of the American Trucking Association (ATA), one of two organizations that petitioned the federal government to mandate a maximum speed for heavy trucks, praised the publication of the rule.
“We are pleased the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have, almost 10 years after we first petitioned them, released this proposal to mandate the electronic limiting of commercial vehicle speeds,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “Speed is a major contributor to truck accidents and by reducing speeds we believe we can contribute to a reduction in accidents and fatalities on our highways.”
The Truckload Carriers Association joined ATA in applauding the issuance of the NPRM
“There are several reasons, first and foremost being safety performance,” said David Heller, TCA’s director of safety and policy. “A majority of accident reports cite the fact that the driver was driving too fast for conditions, so there’s an opportunity to keep that excessive speed in check. There’s also the economic factor as a 65 mph mandate would save fuel.”
Regulators said the measure that would save lives and more than $1 billion in fuel costs annually.
Traffic safety regulators believe such a rule will reduce crashes involving heavy duty trucks. Large truck and bus collisions accounted for almost 4,000 deaths in 2014, according to the latest FMCSA data. Speeding trucks kill about 1,000 people annually, regulators said.
Several studies have proven a direct correlation between vehicle speed and crash fatality. Regulators say such a speed cap could reduce the 1,115 fatal truck crashes each year.
And according to a report by the Associated Press, which was released last year, trucks in 14 states now drive faster than their tires can handle. Tractor-trailers’ tires are designed for maximum speeds of 75 miles per hour, but now several states have speed limits of 75, 80, or 85 on some highways.
There is opposition to the proposed rule. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said limiting the speed of heavy trucks would be dangerous for all highway users. An OOIDA official said such devices create speed differentials that lead to more crashes and promote road rage among other motorists.
“Highways are safest when all vehicles travel at the same relative speed,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “This wisdom has always been true and has not ever changed.”
The agencies’ proposal would establish safety standards requiring all newly manufactured U.S. trucks, buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating more than 26,000 pounds to come equipped with speed limiting devices. The proposal discusses the benefits of setting the maximum speed at 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour, but the agencies will consider other speeds based on public input.
“This is basic physics,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “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.”
Motor carriers operating commercial vehicles in interstate commerce would be responsible for maintaining the speed limiting devices at or below the designated speed for the service life of the vehicle under the proposal.
NHTSA requested comments on the petitions in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the agency published a notice in the Federal Register saying the petitions merited “further consideration through the agency’s rulemaking process” and began working on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters on March 18, 2011. The original version of the proposed rulemaking finally reached the office of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx March 4, 2013. In mid-2016, it appeared the Senate was growing frustrated over the progress of the NPRM when the upper chamber passed its version of the Department of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies FY2017 (THUD) appropriations bill that contained an amendment requiring the rule be published within six months of the signing of the bill. The amendment was offered by Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican after the 2015 death of five nursing students on a Georgia highway. In that accident, a tractor-trailer slammed into traffic backed up on Interstate 16 because of an unrelated crash. Georgia is also the home state of Steve Owings, who founded Road Safe America after his son Cullum was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer on his drive back to school in Virginia.
When Road Safe America filed its petition, Don Osterberg, then vice president of safety and training for Schneider and one of the most respected safety directors in the industry, joined Owings in supporting what he called “one of the most important safety initiatives in commercial vehicle transportation in the last 20 years.”
“Historically, carriers have waited for regulations to come down from the federal government and not been actively engaged in the process,” Osterberg said. “What’s unique in this filing is that a core group of responsible carriers is stepping up and initiating a proactive change for improving public safety. This is good for drivers, good for the motoring public and good for the entire trucking industry.”
If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a car accident caused by a speeding semi truck, contact us at Brannon & Brannon for a free consultation at (850)659-2252 or through our website at brannoncanhelp.com.