The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) has proposed a new rule that would require that all commercial vehicles with a gross weight of more than 26,000 pounds be outfitted with a device called a speed limiter, and that the devices be set to 68 miles per hour. The effect would be to physically prevent the vehicles from going faster than that mandated speed. The goal would be to reduce the number of truck crashes that take place on America’s highways.
The proposal is supported by a study that was conducted by the Virginia Tech University Transportation Institute in collaboration with the American Transportation Research Institute back in 2012. That research included information gathered from twenty different truck fleets, and documented the activities of 138,000 trucks and information from 15,000 trucks. It concluded that when truck speeds are reduced, it reduces the number of crashes that occur.
According to U. S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the new proposal would cut the number of fatal truck crashes by 1,115 per year. It would also provide over $1 billion in fuel savings. “There are significant safety benefits to this proposed rule making. In addition to saving lives, the projected fuel and emissions savings make this proposal a win for safety, energy conservation, and our environment.”
There has been a tremendous amount of pushback against the proposed regulation from those within the industry. Many have argued that the slow down of trucks alone is not a good idea, and that having a differential in speed between trucks and the cars that are driving around them will lead to more accidents. But Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dismisses those objections. “This is basic physics,” he says. “Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.”
The new law, if approved, will unfortunately only be implemented in new trucks: the cost to install the on existing vehicles would be prohibitive. Still, the incremental change in the number of tractor trailers and heavy vehicles driving at speeds over 68 miles per hour is expected to make a dramatic improvement in overall traffic safety, and to reduce the number of truck crash injuries suffered by the drivers of vehicles with whom they share the road.