A recent proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that all big rigs be equipped with speed limiters as a way of reducing the number of fatal truck crashes that occur every year in the U.S. The topic of these limiters has been hotly debated for quite a while now, with two distinct arguments on their use: one side arguing for their use and the other side against using them. While many safety organizations recognize studies that imply the mandatory use of these governors would reduce fatal wrecks, many in the industry itself believe the limiters would work against efforts to reduce accidents.
Can They Really Help?
According to the NHTSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the American Trucking Association, and a number of other safety organizations, restricting how fast heavy vehicles on the highway can go would reduce the yearly number of high-speed fatal wrecks. This idea is based on accident studies and surveys which recognize the fact that some companies already voluntarily use speed governors on all their 18-wheelers.
All of the diesel trucks owned by these companies have these limiters built into the motors, and they can be adjusted according to company requirements. In addition, crash studies performed in Europe and Japan, where all big rigs use speed governors, also suggest a lower prevalence of fatal crashes in relation to a slower pace for 18-wheelers.
The IIHS finds that with rising posted truck speeds on the highways and the number of big rigs that exceed these higher restrictions, governors could be an essential tool to keep big rigs from going too fast. In addition, many 18-wheelers travel at rates that exceed the safe limits of their tires. Therefore, the use of speed limiters would conceivably reduce accidents caused by tire failure as well. Essentially, there is much safety data available that implies the mandatory use of a speed restriction device could reduce serious trucking accidents.
Could Speed Limiters Actually Cause More Accidents?
The other side of the story is the argument brought forth by many truck drivers and the 157,000-member Owner Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) that these limiters are dangerous and will increase fatal crashes. The consensus among drivers opposed to the mandatory speed governors rule is that restricting how fast trucks are able to go will not actually reduce accidents since it creates an entirely new set of risks, including more dangerous interactions between cars moving at high rates and the slower moving big rigs. There is data available that supports this finding as well.
Other thoughts suggest that drivers who want to get around these regulators due to the possibility of increased driving times and rising commercial shipping costs could still do so by driving faster on smaller roads with lower posted limits, where limiters would not be in effect. Generally speaking, a large percentage of truck drivers feel that a mandatory speed governor rule does not take real driving, as experienced by those actually doing the driving into account. They feel this represents ideals that simply do not exist on the highways. Considering the substantial proof that fatal wrecks increase when vehicles move at different speeds especially in higher traffic conditions, drivers remain opposed.
The debate over speed limiters to reduce the incidence of fatal crashes has been going on for years; however, it seems a decision regarding this matter may be coming in the near future. Until then, both sides of this argument continue to point out how these devices can be helpful or harmful for the number of fatal wrecks that occur each year in the U.S.!
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190