The Department of Transportation (DOT) is about to mandate the use of speed limiters – also known as Electronic Control Modules (ECM) – on certain trucks traveling on U.S. highways. This new rule is expected to go into effect as soon as October of this year. The rule would apply to trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds and traveling on roads with a speed limit of at least 55 mph. Thus far the DOT has not commented on the speed to which the heavy trucks would be limited. Previous proposals, however, had included a limit of 68 mph.
Safety advocates say the rule would eliminate approximately 1,115 fatal crashes and require minimal investment by carriers since most heavy trucks already have limiters on board. The American Trucking Association (ATA) has even asked for limiters on all new trucks. Road Safe America (RSA), a safety advocacy group, has proposed retrofitting all vehicles manufactured since 1990. From an overall safety perspective, the rule makes sense. In fact, many fleets already limit the speed of their trucks with electronic governors.
The first efforts for rulemaking on this subject came in 2006. Petitions were brought by the ATA and the RSA, joined by nine motor carriers. They said that a key strategy in preventing large truck fatal crashes is to reduce the top travel speed of the fleet. Studies were cited showing that large trucks moving at high speeds have much longer stopping distances than the same trucks operated at lower speeds. According to data, fatal crashes involving trucks are more prevalent on higher speed roadways. Also, 73 percent of traffic fatalities involving large trucks happened on roads with a posted speed limit of 55 mph or higher. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been looking at mandatory speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks since 2011.
According to reports issued by NHTSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), large trucks are involved in fewer accidents than other types of vehicles per 100 million miles driven. It should be noted, however, that these accidents, although fewer in number, do have a higher rate of fatalities. In 2010, there were 1.1 fatal crashes per 100 million truck miles.
Data show that truck crashes are rising and when they happen quite often a fatality is involved. The IIHS reports that 3,413 people died in accidents in 2010 involving large trucks. Seventy-two percent of the deaths were occupants in a different vehicle. According to the IIHS:
“The Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” done by the DOT, analyzed truck crashes occurring between 2001 and 2003. The report from the study showed that a number of events led to crashes, including among other things: traveling too fast for road conditions; another motor vehicle encroaching into the truck’s lane; shifting cargo; and driver fatigue.
Reports show that 61 percent of fatalities occur on major roads other than interstate highways. Because trucks often weigh as much as 30 times more than a passenger vehicle, the smaller vehicle’s passengers are more likely to die in a crash involving a large truck. Tractor-trailers also require more stopping distance, especially when loaded, and need a correspondingly increased amount of time to react in order to avoid a crash.
It’s not unexpected that lots of truck drivers are opposed to the new proposals. The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has made some pretty good counter-arguments. For example, the OOIDA argues that studies show speed differentials lead to more collisions. They contend it’s safer to keep traffic moving at the same speed.
According to the DOT, the proposed speed limiter rule was slated to be sent to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for approval last month. If approved, it would then go to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. That should happen this month. If the rule succeeds, it could be published as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in October. I understand from reports that fleets strongly approve the rules, but that drivers are just as strong in their opposition. But there is one thing for sure – the debate is not likely to end if the proposal is enacted. In fact, that may be when the real action begins.
Source: Claims Journal
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