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New Truck Safety Rules Delayed Again

In 2006, the American Trucking Association and Roadsafe America petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish a rule regarding the use of speed-limiters on heavy trucks. In May of last year, the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreed on a joint rule and submitted it to the White House Office of Management and Budget. The OMB delayed the issue by extending the review period for the rule. Last week, the rule was delayed again. The OMB also delayed the release of a regulation that would have created a database to track all truck drivers who failed or refused to take drug or alcohol tests.

The use of speed limiters is highly controversial among truck industry insiders. Surveys of individual owner/operators suggest that speed limiters are unpopular. Several larger trucking companies are in favor of the measure. The smaller owners believe that speed limiters are not intended to improve safety, but rather are intended to eliminate competitors to the larger companies. 

Understanding the impact of speed limiters on highway safety is complicated. Speed limiters would potentially increase the speed differential between cars and semi trucks on the road. The established speed limits would continue to be respected or ignored by the drivers of passenger vehicles as usual. Trucks would be incapable of exceeding 65 mph. Larger speed differentials have been tied to an increase in rear-end collisions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Speed limiters could contribute to an increase in this type of accident. However, speed limiters could potentially reduce accidents caused by trucks driving at excessive speeds. The overall safety impact would depend on the relative frequency of these truck crashes.

Sources: Overdrive, "DOT further delays speed limiter, drug/alcohol clearinghouse rules," by Matt Cole, 15 April 2016 

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