The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a rule, on August 26, 2016, requiring all commercial vehicles with a weight limit of 26,000 pounds or greater, operating on U.S. roads and highways, be equipped with speed limiting devices. The intention is to reduce the risk of high speed accidents, avoiding thousands of fatalities, while improving fuel economy.
The devices would limit the maximum speeds that the big rigs were capable of, reducing the frequency of high speed crashes while creating better fuel efficiency.
The new rule would affect all trucks, buses and multi-purpose vehicles with a gross weight of 26,000 pounders or greater, involved in interstate commerce. The proposed maximum speeds for the mentioned vehicles would be either 60, 65 or 68 mph.
Although large truck accidents have declined in the past ten years, per the NHTSA, annual truck collision fatalities still number in the thousands. The size and weight of these vehicles generate an enormous force that can be catastrophic, resulting in severe injuries, fatalities and property damage.
In a press release, NHTSA Administrator Mark Roseland said, “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.”
A report released by the NHTSA in May, 2016, indicated that 3,903 people were killed and an estimated 111,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks in 2014. The data revealed that 74% of the injuries and fatalities were sustained by drivers and passengers of passenger vehicles that collided with the trucks.
The NHTSA estimates that, in addition to reduced injuries and fatalities, equipping the nation’s fleet would reduce the consumption of fuel by an estimated $1.1 billion annually, while also reducing emissions.
It would be the responsibility of installing and maintaining the equipment by the operating motor carrier for the service life of the vehicle.
A 90-day comment period for all interested parties closed on Dec. 7. After generating thousands of responses. While much of the trucking industry gave the bill praise and support, there has been strong opposition by the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association who call the rule dangerous.
“The highways are safest when we all travel at the same speed,” said OOIDA Executive Todd Spencer in a press release, “The wisdom has always been true and has not ever changed. No technology can replace the safest thing to put in a truck, which is a well-trained driver.”
Trucker Gary Buchs, a 30-year veteran who has driven trucks equipped with speed limiters, already in place by many trucking companies, and trucks without the devices, shared his thoughts with Todd Dills of Overdriveonline.com
“I believe that this and all traffic rules and laws need to be founded on evidence-based research that looks at the issues from a multi-faceted approach, Buchs said,” I think it is vital to identify possible behavioral, economic and safety related effect of any rule or equipment changes prior to implementing such a rule.”
From experience, Mr. Buchs identified some typical unsafe operations by truckers who were obviously driving trucks equipped with speed limiting devices:
· Drivers use the limiter to determine their minimum driving speed, speeding in lower speed zones to make up time lost in higher speed zones. These drivers may be attempting to travel more miles within the time allotted by the HOS rules.
· Driving faster in construction zones putting both other drivers and construction worker in danger
· Complacency with speed and following distances and failing to allow adequate spacing for other vehicles to change lanes which encourages road rage behavior.
· The most obvious behavior is attempting to pass other speed limited trucks, resulting in blocking traffic sometimes for miles. This causes frustration of the drivers behind, often causing them to make bad decisions like passing on the shoulder or tailgating. Once the one truck finally gets around the other the drivers cut in too soon.
One of the greatest concern of Mr. Buchs and many other drivers is the inability to adjust the setting of the limiter for the locale in which the truck is driving. When all other traffic is moving at 80-85 MPH, being trapped at 60-65 mph is a recipe for disaster. Many states have laws preventing drivers from driving too far beneath the speed limits for that reason.
Vititoe Law Group is a personal injury law firm committed to making our highways safer. If you or a loved one were involved in a commercial vehicle crash, and were injured or a loved one was killed, contact Vititoe Law Group today for a free evaluation of your claim.