Speed Limiter Mandate Sent to Congress
April 16, 2019
Manufacturers are constantly inventing and refining car and truck safety technology. Speed limiters are just one example. They prevent a vehicle from traveling faster than a set speed. The technology has been standard equipment in many commercial trucks since the 1990s. Yet most truckers never use the speed limiter and there is no federal requirement that they do so.
Some groups have tried to change this. The advocacy organization, Road Safe America, has been requesting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) adopt rules requiring installation and use of speed limiters since 2006.
In 2016, the NHTSA and the FMCSA requested comments on a proposal to require installation and use of speed limiters in all new large-scale trucks. The notice acknowledges that crashes involving fast moving heavy vehicles are more deadly than those involving heavy vehicles traveling at lower speeds. They expect limiting the speed of heavy vehicles will reduce the severity of truck crashes and result in fewer fatalities and injuries.
The agencies estimated that limiting heavy vehicle speeds to 65 mph would save from 63 to 214 lives each year. In addition, between 70 and 236 serious injuries could be avoided with a maximum set speed of 65 mph. They have yet to adopt a rule. An NHTSA official recently claimed that the agency is still reviewing comments and determining next steps.
Advocates Seek Legislation
Frustrated by the delays, a coalition of organizations that includes Road Safe America has formed to pursue a different approach. They seek legislation requiring manufacturers install speed limiters in heavy vehicles and that they equip these vehicles with automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. AEB systems detect and warn the driver of an impending collision. If the response is inadequate to avoid the collision, the system will override the driver and apply the brakes.
Recently, the coalition sent a letter to every member of Congress requesting they take up this issue. They include statistics that show trucks not using their speed limiters had twice the number of highway-speed crashes compared to those using speed limiters.
Advantages requiring these safety devices go beyond saving lives. Tractor trailer accidents cost trucking companies a great deal of money. When crashes are avoided, damage to trucks, lost work days of drivers, and lost cargo are also avoided. The coalition makes the argument that the rule could pay for itself by avoiding these costs. The trade organization, Trucking Alliance, is generally supportive of requiring use of limiters.
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