Independent truckers are rising against proposed regulation affecting their vehicles and work routines. The federal government wants to force lower highway speeds on trucks, buses, and other large vehicles. The proposal for the regulation was released end of August by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
New Speed Limiters for Big Rigs
According to the proposal, all newly manufactured vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds must have electronic speed limiting devices. The device will prevent a driver from exceeding the preset speed limit. Regulators are considering a speed limit cap between 60 and 68 mph. The government agencies involved are currently seeking public comments on the impact each possibility would have on the roads.
Even though the proposal doesn’t force older heavy vehicles to limit their speeds, regulators are still considering it. The NHTSA explains that adding such speed limiting technology might be too costly for vehicles made after 1990. Depending on the vehicle, its engine, and the year it was manufactured, the addition of the device could cost up to $2,000 per vehicle.
Pros and Cons of the New Speed Limiters
The government fancies the proposal due to its direct effect on traffic safety. The regulators claim the new law will decrease the number of accidents on highways. Although the number of large trucks and buses involved in fatal cases has declined in recent years, the injury crashes continue to increase.
In 2014, the injury accidents had increased by 21 percent from the previous year. Some truckers, however, oppose the proposal exactly due to safety reasons. They claim that the new speed limit will make them dangerously slower than all other vehicles on the highway. Big rig drivers say government focuses on the severity of the crash while ignoring the dynamics of trucks and cars that share the road.
The new vehicle interaction pattern will be the cause for confusion and insecurity, in both truck operators and small vehicles’ drivers. Slowing trucks down increases their chances to get hit from behind by other, faster-traveling, vehicles.
Also, the lower speed means drivers will now need more time than before to cover the same distance. As a result, trucking companies will either have to hire more drivers or have current ones drive longer hours. And as numerous studies have shown, accident rates increase during overtime hours.
On the bright side, the speed cap will lead to a decrease in vehicle fuel consumption, saving more than $1 million in annual fuel costs. The new electronic devices placed in trucks will control fuel injection.
In 2015, the Associated Press investigated another valid reason that could play in favor of the regulation. The findings showed that in many states the speed limits are higher than what the trucks’ tires are manufactured to handle. States west of the Mississippi River, for example, have accepted speed limit of 75 mph or more.
The tires today, however, are designed to handle speed limits below 75 mph, a result of past regulations. Since the middle of the last decade, drivers across most of the U.S were allowed to travel no faster than 65 – 70 mph.
Speed limiters have been implemented in many European countries long before the discussion even started in the United States. In the UK, for example, trucks are required to have speed limiters set at 56 mph. The European experience proves that lower-than-65mph speed limits are not only possible but also practical.
If you’d like to oppose the regulation or express your opinion on the proper speed limit, you can do so until November 7. Then the government agencies involved will announce the final decision on the future of the regulation. Truck and bus manufacturers will have three years from the release of the final rule to comply with speed limit requirements.
It’s crucial to understand that speed limiting devices will not solve our problem with traffic safety and large vehicles. They might help. But there is never a full guarantee for no accidents. The goal for companies should be to invest more into the skills and education of well-prepared drivers, rather than rely on automated technology.