Report: Safety regulators propose speed limiters for heavy-duty vehicles

To help reduce the number of fatalities resulting from speed-involved trucking accidents, federal regulators propose making speed limiters mandatory equipment.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports there were about 415,000 commercial vehicle accidents reported to law enforcement across South Carolina and the rest of the U.S. in 2015 alone. Such crashes often result in serious injuries or death for those involved. The most commonly cited driver-related factor that contributes to the cause of trucking collisions is "speeding of any kind." In conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the FMCSA has proposed implementing a new standard for heavy commercial vehicles that is aimed at reducing these types of wrecks and the associated injuries and fatalities.

Equipping heavy-duty vehicles with speed limiters

Safety regulators have proposed an updated safety standard for newly manufactured commercial vehicles, including busses and other multipurpose passenger automobiles. Under the suggested mandate, new vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings in excess of 26,000 pounds would be equipped with speed limitation equipment.

Sometimes referred to as governors, speed limiting devices prevent vehicles from traveling faster than a specified speed. The sensors detect how fast a vehicle is moving and transmit that information to the engine's computer. When the vehicle reaches a pre-set top speed, the computer restricts it from any further acceleration.

Proposed mandate has support and opposition

Supporters of the safety standard point out that even a slight increase in speed may profoundly affect the force of impact in some truck accidents. Thus, they suggest, limiting the speed could be a life-saving measure. Further, the proposed rule's backers tout its potential environmental safety and energy conservation implications. In helping the nation's commercial vehicle fleet run more efficiently, the NHTSA and FMCSA estimate the speed limiters could save over $1 billion in fuel costs annually.

While those in opposition of the mandate agree there are benefits to moderating the speeds of tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles, they suggest the proposal falls short. Rather, people who oppose the rule argue that it should cover all such automobiles that are in service, not just newly manufactured heavy-duty vehicles. Others warn that limiting truckers' ability to control and maneuver their vehicles may impede their ability to react to situations and hazards on the road. Therefore, they argue the rule may end up causing truck accidents, not preventing them.

Seeking legal guidance

Due to semitrailer-involved collisions in South Carolina and elsewhere, people may suffer serious injuries. These may result in a need for unexpected and potentially costly medical treatment, as well as time off work, which may lead to lost income. However, the truckers responsible for causing such accidents or the trucking companies may be held responsible for such losses under some circumstances. Consulting with an attorney may help people understand their rights and options for pursuing financial compensation.