Though speed is the leading factor in severe crashes involving large trucks, only a few commercial vehicles come equipped with speed-limiting technology that sets the threshold for a driver’s pace. However, regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are working on a rule that would limit the speed in which semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles could travel.
Proposed Speed Limitations Would Save Lives
The two agencies used data from 20 truck fleets containing 138,000 trucks involved in 15,000 crashes to test three speed limits: 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour. The tests revealed that even a five mile per hour increase in speed increases the kinetic energy of a truck by one-third. Higher kinetic energy equals more force upon impact when a truck comes to a sudden stop. Additionally, higher speeds increase the length of time it takes for a heavy truck to come to a complete stop.
The results allowed the FMCSA to arrive at an estimate of the number of lives that could be saved by placing a cap on how fast drivers of commercial vehicles could travel. Their estimates are as follows:
- Limiting speed to 68 miles per hour would save 27 to 96 lives.
- Limiting speed to 65 miles per hour would save 63 to 214 lives.
- Limiting speed to 60 miles per hour would save 162 to 498 lives.
Reducing speed limits for large trucks would also save the country an estimated one billion dollars in fuel per year and reduce fuel and greenhouse gas emissions.
However, there are the following drawbacks:
- Retrofitting will be costly and difficult to enforce.
- Motor carriers will be required to enforce the rules for their trucks.
- New vehicles will have to include the speed-limiting technology.
Despite the drawbacks, the agencies are confident the benefits to highway safety and environmental health will outweigh the inconveniences that come with implementing the plan.
How will the new regulations be enforced?
Since the rule is in the development stages, the agencies are asking for input from motor carriers and fleet operators. The rule is currently up for comment so officials can make revisions before seeking final approval. The agencies are posing the following questions to the public with specific focus on obtaining answers from commercial motor carriers:
- Which speed offers the most benefit without hindering the efficiency of transport?
- What is the impact retrofitting existing commercial trucks with speed-limiting devices?
- Should the speed requirement only apply to commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 pounds and already equipped with a speed-limiting device?
One part of the rule that is not up for discussion is the requirement of all newly manufactured commercial vehicles with a GVWR of over 26,000 pounds to come pre-installed with the speed-limiting technology. Vehicles required to come standard equipped with speed-limiting devices are commercial trucks, buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles meeting those weight limits.
The rule is currently published in the Unified Agenda and is open for commenting on the Federal Register website.
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