In 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was petitioned by the American Trucking Association and Road Safe America to start requiring speed limiters for heavy trucks (trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating that is more than 26,000 pounds). As a result, the NHTSA has been gathering comments and information on the issue. According to the NHTSA, the administration will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2012. This does not mean that a speed limiter requirement for commercial trucks will be made. However, it does suggest that the NHTSA recognizes the merits of the argument and deems further inquiry into trucking accidents, causes and prevention necessary.
Will Speed Limiters on Big Rigs Increase Safety?
The NHTSA's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking could include speed limits of 68 mph for heavy trucks (as requested in both 2006 petitions). Speed limiters are electronic control modules (ECM) that would be tamper-resistant and able to "limit the maximum speed of the vehicle", according to the NHTSA's notice in the Federal Register (49 CFR Part 571). Additionally, manufacturers would be required to install the ECM's in all heavy trucks manufactured after 1990.
Supporters of the speed limiter requirement believe that using these devices will increase safety since faster vehicles need more time to stop in emergencies and accidents involving higher speed vehicles tend to result in injuries that are more severe. Limiters will also provide economic benefits; by reducing speed, trucks will use less fuel and create less wear and tear on tires.
Alternatively, those who oppose speed limiters, such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), argue that limiters will not improve safety. Increased speed differentials cause a bigger danger on the roadways and vehicles will be safest when all are traveling at similar speeds. Additionally, the costs associated with installing the ECM devices will be high for trucking carriers.
Dangers Posed by Commercial Trucks
While the future of a NHTSA rule requiring speed limiters remains unknown, it is clear that the dangers associated with commercial trucks are being studied and investigated. Even with reduced speeds, due to the weight and size of big rigs, injuries resulting from trucking accidents are often catastrophic. Measures to reduce trucking accidents will be explored and solutions will be implemented in upcoming years.
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