Controversy over Proposal to Limit Speed of Big Rigs

Controversy over Proposal to Limit Speed of Big Rigs

A controversial proposal has pitted trucking industry leaders against each other. While the trucking industry is motivated to engage in preventative measures to save lives from crashes caused by speeding semi-trucks, the proposed measures seek to enforce regulations on only a small, select group of semi trucks.

740 Deaths a Year on Average Due to Speed

According to a CBS Evening News report in August 2016, every year, an average of 740 people die in crashes involving big rig trucks speeding on the highway. This statistic is nothing new, but recent highway tragedies involving speeding trucks have spurred federal regulators to propose a law that would require all new vehicles weighing at least 26,000 pounds to be equipped with devices that would limit their speeds from 68 to 60 mph.

Proposed by the US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the new law would apply to large buses, dump trucks and refuse haulers as well as tractor trailers, often called semis or big rigs.

Joe Fried, senior trial lawyer said, “why make the rule apply only to new trucks when all the trucks on the road have the technology now? How many more lives have to needlessly be destroyed or prematurely ended? This was an opportunity for NHTSA and FMCSA to do something real to save lives. The blood for failing to do so is on their hands.”

In recent years, advancing technology has been a hot topic in the trucking industry. However, the technology behind these speed-limiting devices is not a recent innovation. All trucks in the US manufactured since 1992 have come standard with electronic equipment that makes it physically impossible for trucks to exceed a set speed. But the trucking industry has been slow to activate this technology.

“This is way too little way too late. All of the data and statistics and even the trucking industry itself (American Trucking Association) acknowledge that speed limiters would save many lives and many catastrophic injuries each year. Safety advocates and the industry both agree that limiters should apply to existing as well as new trucks, not only new trucks. Indeed, the technology for this exists right now in just about every single truck on the roadway. It literally would take a few minutes for a technician to turn the feature on and set a speed limit.”

Technology’s Role to Reduce Crashes

The push for required use of speed-limiting technology has been underway since 2006, thanks to a group called Road Safe America. The group was founded by Atlanta, Georgia financial advisor Steve Owings and his wife Susan, who lost their son Cullum in 2002 to a highway accident with a speeding tractor-trailer.

Road Safe America has been pushing the NHTSA to not only require use of the speed-limiting technology, but to also require older trucks to limit their speeds.

Even the American Trucking Association (ATA) admits that speed is a crucial factor in 23% of all truck crashes.

In the words of Fried Goldberg co-founder Michael Goldberg, “There is no doubt that speed kills. But when you are operating an 80,000 lb. vehicle both the chances of injury and the magnitude of injury increase dramatically when the driver exceeds the speed limit.”

Reduced Speed Will Reduce Deaths

By limiting speeds, truck crashes would be prevented or limited in their severity. The efficacy of this rule has been proved in Ontario, Canada, where big rigs have been limited to 65mph since 2009. Within the first year, of using this speed-limiting truck technology, the province saw a 24 percent drop in truck crash fatalities.

According to The Los Angeles Times slower speeds would prevent the likelihood of tire blowouts and resulting accidents. According to an investigation last year by the Associated Press, “14 states have speed limits for big trucks that are equal to or higher than the speeds their tires were designed to handle. Most truck tires aren’t designed to go faster than 75 mph, and tire manufacturers say traveling faster than that can cause tires to fail and blow out, creating safety issues.”

However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association strongly opposes the new proposal. Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the 157,000-member group, argues that speed limiters actually intensify danger on the highway: “Differentials in speed increase interactions between vehicles, which increases the likelihood of crashes.”

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