New Federal Rules Will Limit Commercial Vehicles to Slower Highway Speed

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have each proposed new rules that would make speed limiters mandatory on all commercial vehicles weighing 26,000 lbs. or more. The speed limiters would bar trucks from traveling faster than 60, 65, or 68 mph, depending on the version of the rule adopted by these organizations at the conclusion of the ongoing comment process.

The speed limiting rules are intended to address both the potential for harm which large trucks carry, as well as the volume of fuel consumed by these vehicles. "Based on the agencies' review of the available data, limiting the speed of these heavy vehicles would reduce the severity of crashes involving these vehicles and reduce the resulting fatalities and injuries," said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Administrator of the NHTSA, Mark Rosekind, was similarly enthusiastic, calling the restriction on truck speeds "simple physics." "Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact," said Rosekind. "Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment."

Large trucks are involved in about one in every ten fatal accidents on American roads, with about 40% of those occurring at speeds between 60 and 75 mph. Large trucks, which can weigh over 80,000 lbs., require a much greater distance to come to a stop than do passenger vehicles, and that distance becomes exponentially greater as trucks travel at faster speeds. When a tractor-trailer is traveling at 65 mph, the braking distance it requires is 50% greater than when that same truck is traveling at 55 mph. According to Department of Transportation research, capping large commercial vehicle speeds at 60 mph would prevent up to 498 fatalities each year, as well as up to 15,000 injuries.

The benefits to the use of speed limiters go beyond preventing accidents. "There are significant safety benefits to this proposed rulemaking," Foxx went on. "In addition to saving lives, the projected fuel and emissions savings make this proposal a win for safety, energy conservation, and our environment." Department of Transportation research has determined that, if large vehicle speeds were capped at 60 mph, the resulting fuel savings would be over $800 million annually.

Trucking and transportation industry representatives agree that speed limiters are beneficial. "The best thing you can do for [fuel economy] and safety is lower speeds," said Mark Rourke, the CEO of transportation company Schneider. That company has been using speed limiters on its vehicles since 2009, and has benefited in the form of reduced accident rates and fuel costs. A Department of Transportation study found that, among trucks using speed limiters, the rate of crashes was 11 out of every 100 trucks. Among trucks without speed limiters, that rate was 16.4 out of every 100 trucks.

If you've been injured in a truck accident in Kentucky, contact the compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced Lexington truck accident lawyers at O'Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC for a consultation on your claim for money damages, at 859-317-2056.

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