The Department of Transportation recently announced a proposal to add speed limiting devices to commercial trucks in an effort to improve highway safety. The devices would physically prevent trucks from exceeding a maximum speed—recommended at 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour. The rule would apply to commercial vehicles over 26,000 pounds with motor carriers responsible for maintaining the devices and enforcing the speed rules.
Every driver knows that cars must share the highways with commercial trucks. There isn’t a separate road system. Big rigs weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds and that puts passenger cars at a serious disadvantage in a crash. The weight of the vehicles and speed at impact sometimes result in multi-car pile-ups and almost always result in serious injury or death.
Low gas prices the last few years have contributed to an increase in commercial truck traffic, as evidenced by more and more truckers speeding to their destinations to meet delivery deadlines. Depending on the traffic, load, type of cargo, and location commercial trucks can have a higher crash risk than cars—especially if they are traveling at high speeds. Per NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, it’s just basic physics that the force of impact in a crash increases with speed. Likewise, if you slow down, the force of impact decreases and so do injuries.
If the DOT forces a maximum speed onto commercial vehicles it will compel drivers to use more care while driving and when merging and changing lanes. The result will be fewer and less serious crashes. The DOT also predicts the change will deliver $1 billion per year in fuel cost savings for motor carriers. This savings and a decrease in crash liability may be enough to get a favorable nod from the trucking industry which has historically fought against restrictive safety measures.
According to Steve Owings, co-founder of Road Safe America, this rule proposal comes almost 10 years after his organization initially filed the petition and he is concerned that it only applies to new trucks and not trucks already on the road. Owings states that trucks made during the last 20 years already have the speed limiting software and that the agencies are “blunting the potential safety benefits of the heavy vehicle speed governor rule” by waiving enforcement against pre-existing, technology-ready trucks.
The speed limiting rule is only in the proposal stage at this point and may take months to implement. Meanwhile crashes with commercial vehicles will continue to pose a risk to other drivers on the highways. These at-risk drivers need to seek advice if involved in a crash with a commercial vehicle. An experienced attorney can analyze the liability and insurance issues related to property damage and injuries.