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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in conjunction with the American Transportation Research Institute and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, recently published findings from a study that sought to analyze the effects of speed limiters installed in commercial vehicles.

The study overwhelmingly showed that speed limiters have a profound impact on reducing or mitigating truck crashes, as well as their severity.

Speed limiters, sometimes called governors, are devices that electronically monitor and cap a vehicle's top speed. When implemented, speed limiters use multiple sensors to calculate a vehicle's speed and then transmit it to the engine's computer. When a programmed top speed is reached, the computer restricts the flow of air and gas to the engine and controls the combustion process to prevent a vehicle from going too fast. Critics of speed limiter technology can no longer deny their safety benefits, based on the FMCSA study findings.

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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.

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