Speed Limiters and 18-Wheelers – Is It The Right Solution?

Because of the increased number of speed-related 18-wheeler accidents occurring on the highways, an important issue has arisen about mandatory speed limiters or speed governors. Of course, there are opposing viewpoints about the use of these regulators. One side of the argument believes their use actually increases the chance of a truck accident. Lawyers who handle truck wrecks related to speeding issues question if speed limiters would actually reduce this type of truck accident.

Information About Speed Limiters

Highway speeds have gradually increased from 65 mph to 75 mph over the past few years. In some areas in Texas, the speed limit has risen to 85 mph to keep traffic moving. This higher speed can be handled by most passenger cars; however, tractor trailers are generally not equipped with tires that can travel at such high speeds. When driven at speeds above 70 mph, the possibility of tire failure increases exponentially. One of the more common causes of 18 wheeler accidents is tire blowouts, most of which are speed-related. Although there are other speed-related causes of big rig accidents, the primary factor is that trucks driving above 65 mph create highly dangerous highway-driving conditions.

Statistics on Speed-Related Trucking Accidents

The American Trucking Association (ATA) as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) support a rule proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) that would make speed limiters mandatory to keep big trucks over 26,000 lbs. traveling no more than 65 mph on any highway. Based on research collected by the FMCSA, 18% of fatal truck accidents occurred at speeds greater than 65 mph.1

Speeding was the most coded driver factor in all trucking accidents.1 A study done by the FMCSA based on data from 20 commercial carrier companies and over 138,000 trucks revealed that 15% of all fatal truck accidents were speed-related. The interpretation of this data disclosed that the use of speed limiters would have had an effect on how and where these accidents transpired. Further interpretation revealed that trucks with speed limiters accounted for only one in five of all speed-related crashes included in the study.2

Arguments Against Speed Limiters

The ATA, the FMCSA, and many other safety organizations all seek a solution to prevent trucks from driving faster than 65 mph. The practical use of electronic regulators is strongly challenged by certain groups in the trucking industry. These groups believe that slowing trucks down, while allowing the rest of traffic to go faster, will cause accidents rather than prevent them. In opposition to the proposed FMCSA ruling about speed limiters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) states the study and statistics referenced above are not representative. They believe this is because of the many circumstances when a speed limiter would become more of a danger. OOIDA also claims that the initial FMCSA report, which FMCSA chose to revisit and republish, was inconclusive. The republished report reaches different conclusions with no change in data.3

The controversy over speed limiters has been ongoing for many years. Drivers argue against the proposed rule, while safety organizations continue to suggest that the use of a speed limiter can prevent fatal truck accidents. Although both sides want a solution that will reduce the number of 18 wheeler accidents, they have very different ideas on what can actually accomplish such a goal. If you have been involved in a high-speed truck accident and want more information about speed limiters, contact an experienced truck wreck lawyer today!

1U.S. DOT, FMCSA Analysis Division, Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts, 2011

2FCMSA – Research on the Safety Impacts of Speed Limiter Devices Installation, March 2012

3OOIDA Foundation – Speed Limiters 

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