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Will speed limiters on trucks improve road safety?

In working to improve road safety, federal agencies are considering if equipping trucks with speed limiters could decrease the severity of crashes and resulting injuries and fatalities. Some trucking organizations and private citizens, however, claim there is a lack of evidence the devices mitigate hazardous incidents and suggest they actually might cause more problems.

In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a proposal for a new federal rule that would mandate all large trucks — those weighing more than 26,000 pounds — be equipped with speed-limiting devices.

The proposal, developed jointly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, suggested limiting the speed of trucks to either 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour, according to the Federal Register.

Federal agencies are seeking feedback from the trucking industry, equipment manufacturers and general public on this proposal through Nov. 7.

Industry stakeholders, public officials and others are split on the costs and benefits of the proposed rule.

Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, Owner Operator Independent Driver Association’s director of government affairs, believes the proposal is “based on shaky science that will likely detract from highway safety,” according to Land Line magazine.

“The arguments in support of speed limiters haven’t changed much. Neither has the science, which is, in part, why we didn’t see DOT pursue a rule long ago,” she stated.

Some industry stakeholders believe speed limiters take away a driver’s control and ability to speed up to avoid or prevent perilous situations, according to the report in Land Line magazine. Industry participants cite multiple other causes for accidents — including misjudgment, inattention, curves and poor road conditions, driver aggression, overcorrection and inclement weather — which speed limiters would not address.

In contrast, the American Trucking Association and the Trucking Alliance both support the mandate for speed limiters, according to Overdrive magazine.

Chris Spear, the ATA president and CEO, told the magazine the trucking industry should not be afraid of technology but search for its potential benefits.

“Carriers who already voluntarily use speed limiters have found significant safety, as well as fuel efficiency and equipment lifespan benefits with little to no negative impact on productivity,” he stated.

According to the proposal, heavy vehicles are subject to several speed-related safety issues. Studies have concluded “the severity of a crash increases with increased travel speed,” and “even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact,” the proposal states.

In 2014, “speeding of any kind” was the most common driver-related factor recorded for fatal crashes involving large trucks, according to the FMCSA. Because truck accidents can cause serious and catastrophic injuries, federal agencies and several trucking organizations argue there is only a risk speed limiters could improve road safety.

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