Speed Limiters: The Pros and Cons

October 02, 2015 by Carina Ockedahl, @Ockis9

Anyone working in the trucking industry is likely aware of the buzz surrounding the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposed rulemaking regarding mandatory speed limiters on heavy trucks. Some groups are for it, others against, but the primary concern on both sides appears to be safety.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came together on the issue to curb the legal speed limit of trucks, in response to a 2006 petition from the American Trucking Associations and Roadsafe America. The proposal was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on May 19, but the review period has been extended.

Two of the industry’s biggest lobbying groups are butting heads over the new rule: According to the Commercial Carrier Journal, American Trucking Associations is hoping the mandate will limit heavy trucks (weighing more than 26,000 pounds) to 65 miles per hour or less, whereas the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association believes the rule will not address safety challengers and will only increase risk.

Pros of Speed Limiters

Those who are in favor of speed limiters, or speed governors, cite the following reasons:

Improved road safety:  The Truckers Report notes that commercial trucks are responsible for 18 percent of all fatal crashes. The primary cause? Speed. The argument here is that mandated speed limiters could help decrease the amount of road accidents, injuries, and fatalities that occur.

Improved fuel efficiency: In a June 2010 article, Wired explained the simple concept that wind resistance increases exponentially the faster you drive, which in turn means that you are burning more fuel. That being said, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that if a large truck reduces its speed by even one mile per hour, it will benefit from fuel savings of around 1 percent.

Reduced emissions: In keeping with the same logic as expressed by Wired, the bottom line is this: The faster you drive, the more fuel you use, the more carbon dioxide you produce. Reducing your speed on the highway will lower both fuel consumption and the amount of CO2 emissions being emitted into the atmosphere.

Cons of Speed Limiters

Opponents of speed limiters have their own safety concerns:

Unintended safety consequences: In their petition, OOIDA stated that speed limiters create a difference in speed between trucks and other highway users. The association considers this unsafe, as smaller vehicles will attempt to pass “speed-limited trucks” in order to get on or off the highway.

Increased congestion: In a June 2008 article, Truck News mentioned the idea that speed governors on trucks could lead to increased traffic congestion. The trucking newspaper then explained that when vehicles are travelling at different speeds over the same network, bottlenecks are created, and congestion follows as a result.

Loss of profit for small owner-operators: OOIDA says speed limiters could cost vehicle operators 50-55 miles a day — equivalent to a loss of up to $85.25 daily, or $22,165 a year.

Instead of the proposed mandatory speed restrictions, OOIDA suggests improving driver training and ensuring that tickets are given to passenger-car drivers “who operate unsafely around commercial trucks.”

Whatever the case, safety remains a primary concern. But do the pros outweigh the cons?

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