The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) recently published a notice of intent to proceed with rulemaking requiring speed limiters on commercial vehicles. Safety advocates believe speed limiters can prevent thousands of fatal traffic accidents each year, but truck drivers have their hesitations about the technology. Today’s blog provides an explainer about speed limiters and why the FMSCA plans to make them mandatory on large trucks here in Arizona and across the country.
Motor vehicle accident fatalities are rising
The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently published their annual report on car and truck crash fatalities across the country, and commercial and large truck fatalities hit some of their highest rates ever in 2020. They report 38,824 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, both the highest fatality rate since 2007 and an almost seven percent increase from 2019.
From these fatalities, 4,965 deaths resulted from large truck accidents, and an additional 146,930 people were seriously injured. Many safety advocates, as well as the FMCSA, believe the use of speed limiters can help prevent many of these tragic accidents and crashes.
How do speed limiters work?
Most drivers have been tempted by a stretch of open road to see just how fast their car or truck can go. Because speeding-related accidents claim so many lives each year, some car and truck manufacturers add something called a “speed limiter,” also called a speed governor, to their vehicles. In some countries, speed limiters are required. Per HowStuffWorks:
A series of sensors detect how fast you’re going, then communicate that information to the engine’s computer, which manages nearly all the engine’s functions. Once you reach a pre-determined top speed, the computer steps in and restricts the flow of air and fuel to the engine and even the sparks that cause combustion. Either way, you’ll be unable to exceed the top speed as determined by the car’s manufacturer.
A typical passenger car typically limits at around 110 miles per hour, although testing that limit is both against the law and dangerous to you, your passengers, and anyone else out on the road. HowStuffWorks notes that the primary reason for speed limiters is safety. The higher the speed, the more difficult it is for a driver to control a vehicle.
Making speed limiters mandatory
Currently, speed limiters are not required on commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the United States. However, in an April 27, 2022 Notice of Intent, the FMCSA stated they would be moving forward with their plan to make speed limiters mandatory in CMVs:
FMCSA is moving forward with this rulemaking because of concerns about the number of CMV crashes and fatalities traveling at high speeds. In 2019, there were 860 fatal crashes in areas with posted speed limits of 70 to 75 miles per hour. Twenty-four fatal crashes in areas with posted speed limits between 80 to 85 miles per hour. Approximately 20 percent of fatal crashes occur in areas with posted speed limits in these ranges. The rule will help reduce crashes and save lives on our nation’s roadways.
Response to the announcement is mixed, with both safety advocates and trucking companies offering their input and opinions.
Critics of the program claim it could cause even more truck accidents. They believe that if CMVs cannot travel at the same rate of traffic, it can cause dangerous speed differentials. Further, they argue speed limiters can result in “rolling roadblocks” when trucks are in both lanes, or cause truckers to abandon highways and look for alternate routes where they can exceed local speed limits.
The Department of Transportation (DOT), however, has previously reported that the slower the truck, the greater the fuel savings, and the greater the safety benefits. They note that “a 65 mph limit would see between 63 and 214 deaths prevented, and a 68 mph limit would prevent between 27 and 96 lives a year.” Further, capping speeds can protect truck drivers from shippers or companies who attempt to coerce them into breaking speed limits to make up time.
Also supporting speed limiters and helping push this mandate along was the proposed Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act. The bill, calling for speed limiters on all large commercial trucks, is named for college student Cullum Owings, who was killed when a speeding truck crashed into the back of his stopped vehicle. Per Gary Catapano, Co-founder of the Safe Operating Speed Alliance:
During 2020 over 42,000 people lost their lives on our highways. According to the National Safety Council the fatality rate increased 24%, the largest increase ever and speed was a major factor. Large trucks are often involved in speed related crashes and their crash dynamics make it far more likely to result in serious injuries and fatalities. The speed limiter installed in large trucks for many years can be easily programmed to limit the top operating speed and help prevent these collisions and save lives by limiting crash forces.
Read more about the FMCSA’s Notice of Intent here.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident with a commercial truck, the attorneys at Plattner Verderame, PC want to help. We understand the complexities of injury and accident claims involving trucking companies and truck drivers, and can walk you through the legal process with knowledge. We work to identify all liable parties, as well as help secure financial compensation for your injuries and losses. Talk to us today about what we can do for you.
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