The U.S. Department of Transportation is accepting comments on a proposal requiring speed limiters on certain trucks and buses.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released a proposal requiring speed limiters on trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating more than 26,000 pounds.  The NHTSA and FMCSA suggest that speeds  of 60, 65, or 68 mph would be beneficial.  The agencies have requested public input before setting the actual speed.  The deadline for submitting comments to the agencies is December 7, 2016.  The proposed rule should save lives and more than a billion dollars in fuel costs annually, making it a "win for safety, energy conservation and our environment."

Road Safe America and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have tried for more than a decade to push the trucking industry to turn on the speed limiting technology that has been installed in all U.S. trucks since 1992.  The safety groups advocate that "speed limiters are an available solution to large trucks flagrantly exceeding highway speed limits and needlessly putting the public at grave risk.
The trucking industry, which in the past has resisted the activation of these speed limiting switches, now agrees and supports the idea of activating these speed limiters.  It has been reported that Sean McNally, a spokesman for the American Trucking Association (ATA) said:  "Speed is a factor in a third of all vehicle crashes and 23 percent of all truck crashes.  So slowing our vehicles down can have tremendous safety benefits."

It is not well known that since 1992, all U.S. trucks have been equipped with electronic technology that can limit a truck's speed.  Even though the technology is already installed in all trucks manufactured since 1992, the proposed rule would only require new trucks to activate the speed limiters.  The Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America (APITLA) leadership applauds the DOT's proposed rule with the proviso that the final rule should mandate that this life saving technology be activated on all trucks and buses that already have the limiters built in, not just the newest trucks.  As a practical matter, since the speed limiters are already installed in the trucks which have been manufactured since 1992, there will not be any additional capital costs to the trucking industry to activate these switches.

Extensive research supports the mandatory activation of these safety switches.  Steve Owings, the co-founder of Road Safe America, points out that there is ample proof that speed limiting technology reduces crashes, prevents injuries and saves lives.  Furthermore, the European Union, Japan, Australia, as well as Ontario and Quebec, all require speed limiters to be set on heavy commercial vehicles at speeds varying from 55 miles per hour in Japan to 65 miles per hour in Canada.  After Ontario required speed limiters set at 65 mph, they experienced a 24 percent reduction in truck crash fatalities.
At a time when truck crashes have shot up 44 percent between 2009 and 2014; injuries from truck crashes have skyrocketed 50 percent between 2009 and 2014; and newly released data on 2015 truck crash fatalities show a 20 percent increase in truck crash fatalities from 2009 to 2015, it is now time to finalize the speed limiter rules.  An FMCSA study found that trucks not using speed governors were in twice as many high speed collisions as those using them.

According to the ATA, speed is a contributor to roughly 29 percent of all fatal crashes.  Driving too fast for conditions or over the posted speed limit was the primary reason for 18 percent of all fatal crashes where a large truck was deemed at fault.

According to the NHTSA and the FMCSA, limiting the speed of heavy trucks to 60 miles per hour would save an estimated 150 to 500 lives annually.  Limiting the speed of heavy trucks to 65 miles per hour could save between 50 to 215 lives annually.  Even limiting the speed of heavy trucks to 68 miles per hour could save between 25 to 100 lives annually.

It is estimated that the use of speed governors could save approximately 6 gallons of fuel per day per truck.  The speed governors would also limit the liability costs of the trucking companies since there will be fewer crashes and the speed limiters will extend the life of equipment (brakes, tires and engines).

Although this proposal is endorsed by consumer safety groups and the American Trucking Association, independent truckers have flooded the DOT with negative comments, arguing that the rule will cause road congestion and make it more difficult for them to make a decent living.

At this time, it is important for those of us concerned with safer highways, to let the DOT know that we support a rule activating the speed limiters for all trucks manufactured from 1992 and going forward.
If you would like to have your voice heard, you may submit your comments immediately to the DOT. 
Ted Bassett
Ted Bassett is Chair of Mirick O'Connell's Personal Injury Group and President of the  Association of Plaintiff Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America ( APITLA ).

To have your voice heard: 

Visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal: and under "What's Trending" click on "Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations:  Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operations; Speed Limiting Devices."

Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-40, Washington, DC  20590-0001.

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