Speed Limiters on Trucks – A Debate of Safety

For those that are unfamiliar with the term “governed truck”, it is a truck that has a speed limiter on it to keep the truck from going over a certain RPM or a certain speed. When were governors on trucks created and why? What does the future hold now that the FMCSA is considering a mandatory limiter?

Most trucks began having limiters put on them in the early 1990’s and nearly all of them have the capability to have their limiter “turned on” today. It is up to the company’s discretion on not just if they turn on the limiter but also what speed they are able to set it at.

If you are a trucker and you find yourself reading this, you know well of the debate of governing truck speed. And there is a chance, due to your experience, you just may be against it. Many truckers through the years have opposed harsh speed limiter regulations (or any regulation at all) and sometimes will choose not to work with a company that implements them. Or you may be of the minority that believe they serve a good purpose when it comes to safety and fuel efficiency. Regardless, there is now more of a push than ever to get commercial vehicles governed by law.

Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act

“The Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act would codify into law a “speed limiter” rule that has been under consideration at for more than a decade. The bill is named for 22-year old Atlanta resident Cullum Owings, who was killed in a car-truck collision in 2002 while returning to college. The legislation was long-championed by former Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson and is endorsed by the Truckload Carriers Association, the Trucking Alliance, AAA, the Institute for Safer Trucking, Road Safe America, and the Safe Operating Speed Alliance.” – McBath.House.gov

Last year this measure was introduced with the intention of governing trucks. By doing so, they are hoping to reduce the rates of truck-related fatalities on the road that are caused by speeding. They mention an effort to increase fuel efficiency as well.

Though this bill has made headway recently, the FMCSA published a notice of intent last month separate from the Act, that elaborated on its plans for the future of speed limiters on trucks:

“FMCSA announces its intent to proceed with a speed limiter rulemaking by preparing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) to follow up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) and FMCSA’s jointly issued September 7, 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on this subject. The SNPRM will propose that motor carriers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater, that are equipped with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) capable of governing the maximum speed be required to limit the CMV to a speed to be determined by the rulemaking and to maintain that ECU setting for the service life of the vehicle.”

Logically, if you were to slow something down before it hits another object, the damage will be less than it was if it was speeding. That is the thinking behind this measure in hopes to reduce fatalities that make up 17% of all truck related accidents.

A different safety concern

There is much discussion on the safety of governing trucks. Whereas the general public is concerned on the accidents of speeding trucks, drivers are concerned about the differential it puts between them and cars that are able to go up to 90 miles per hour on the roadway. Slowing speeds can cause accidents as well when truck drivers are not able to merge onto freeways at an appropriate speed or when they need to pass someone going at a dangerously slow speed.

Other concerns among the same population are that it will severely hurt small businesses as this measure would decrease the ability to have on time deliveries for their customers due to added traffic congestion. Lastly, that this will put another level of stress on an already stressed work force now that they would have to navigate irresponsible drivers without being able to get around them and may end up making poor decisions when trying to get to a delivery on time.

Coming to a head

In the coming years we will likely see some sort of legislation play out regarding speed limiters on commercial vehicles. The more the economy grows, the more drivers will be on the road, four-wheeler and eighteen-wheeler alike, which will only push for more regulations. The debate on whether a speed limiter mandate is a good or bad thing could soon be over.

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