Are Speed Limiters the Remedy for Fatal Truck Accidents?
It can be intimidating to share the road with large semi-trucks. Most automobile drivers know the feeling of being nervous and scared when big rigs are close by, which makes it common for people to hold onto the steering wheel and hope for the 18-wheelers to pass by as quickly as possible. The reason for this is most likely because trucks are so big, take up a lot of space in the lane, and are also known to be dangerous.
Fatalities from commercial truck accidents continue to rise across the United States. Unsafe speed is common in crashes, which has caused a great debate about installing speed limiters on trucks.
We do not know whether speed limiters will help curb truck crashes. But these accidents continue to happen, and anyone with injuries should discuss their rights with a truck accident lawyer.
What Are Speed Limiters?
Speed limiters are devices added to a truck or vehicle’s engine to limit how fast it can go. A few years ago, the Road Safe America Group suggested that speed limiters be on all large trucks to ensure they cannot exceed the speed limit of 68 miles per hour. Advocates believe this will improve road safety and decrease the chances of accidents occurring because of speed.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports that 11,258 people died on the roads in a recent year due to speeding. Drivers around the country must watch their speeds for safety purposes. However, even when looking at the numbers, requiring speed limiters is still a very controversial issue in America.
Typical Speed Limits in the United States
Speed limits vary in different areas of the United States. They can be as low as 35 miles per hour or as high as 85 miles per hour, depending on what type of area you are driving in. Local and state transportation agencies usually set speed limits. To do this, they take the time to do research and conduct engineering speed studies, as well as get opinions from others to determine the proper speed limit for the road or area.
Interestingly, you may see signs that set the speed limit lower for big rigs than passenger vehicles. For example, Washington has a speed limit of 60 miles per hour for large trucks, which is the required speed limit on interstates, rural areas, urban areas, and more.
Speed limits have not changed much over time on American roads. They have remained steady for the past couple of decades. There was a time (the early 1970s through the mid-90s) when it was a federal requirement to stay under 55 miles per hour on highways in all 50 states, but legislators have since repealed the rule. Since then, states have begun setting higher speed limits in areas they deem appropriate.
Recently, almost all of America’s states had roads with speed limits over 70 miles per hour. As reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Texas currently has the highest speed limit of all the states, which is 85 miles per hour.
What Causes Truck Drivers to Speed?
There may be a variety of different reasons that truck drivers speed. However, the main reason is usually pressure to get their loads to the delivery locations before their time limits expire. Another reason is their employers may encourage them to speed to get more work done, or they may try to make up for their break time by driving more miles at a faster rate if they get paid by the mile.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are federal regulations on how many service hours truck drivers can drive before needing a break. This administration has lobbied for these regulations for a long time and was eventually successful. Truckers are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours off duty, and there is a requirement that truck drivers must take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of their shift. Safety is the main motive behind these regulations, even though truckers are not very fond of them.
What Benefits Do Speed Limiters Bring?
Speed is one of the top reasons for most deadly truck accidents. As a result, many other countries outside of the United States have implemented speed limitations for 18-wheelers, which has reduced deaths in these accidents. Other countries have been so impressed with these results that many manufacturers distribute newer trucks internationally with speed limiters included. This has been happening for about three decades, but the United States has not caught up to these trends or adopted any rules requiring speed limiters in big rigs.
The benefits of speed limiters include safety, reduced emissions, and fuel efficiency.
The main benefit is safety, and the thought process with speed limiters is that they will reduce the chances of an accident. Since the primary cause of truck accidents is speed, accident rates may decrease if speed limiters become commonplace in the U.S.
When truck drivers drive their trucks faster, they use more fuel and produce more carbon dioxide. Therefore, if the truck cannot drive as fast, it will use less fuel and produce less carbon dioxide.
When a truck cannot drive as fast, the vehicle does not have to work as hard to keep up with higher speed. Maintaining a specific speed and not going fast will likely save fuel. Not only will this lead to fuel efficiency, but it will also cut down on the cost of refueling the truck.
What Are the Negatives Regarding Speed Limiters?
Many in the trucking industry are against speed limiters for various reasons. Some companies believe speed limiters will cause congestion on the roads and large speeding differentials between automobiles and semi-trucks, which can result in more wrecks. Therefore, most truck-driving employers advocate that speed limiters should be voluntary as some companies already use them.
While you may see mostly benefits when it comes to speed limiters, trucking businesses see a lot of negatives.
The most reported negatives regarding speed limiters on 18-wheelers include the following:
Safety issues and mistakes.
Loss for small owners.
More pressure on truckers.
Safety issues and mistakes
Some believe that if trucks and other automobiles have a large differential between their speeds, it can cause more wrecks. Truckers and other drivers have a higher risk of being involved in an accident because of this speed differential. Think about a smaller vehicle traveling 70 miles per hour or more approaching a much slower-moving semi-truck. This can lead to a devastating accident that results in catastrophic injuries and even death.
Traffic congestion is another negative concern when it comes to speed limiters. There is time loss among truckers and other drivers when there is congestion. This may lead to road rage and frustration among drivers. Speed limiters can also potentially lead to difficulties when switching lanes or merging, as semi-truck drivers cannot do these driving methods quickly.
Loss for small owners
Since speed limiters increase the time it takes to deliver products, they may also increase the entire transportation process. This can heavily impact a company, especially a small business. Customers expect delivery to be quick as they want their products as fast as possible. Therefore, adding speed limiters to trucks will put a damper on this, which means small owners will lose customers because they cannot keep up with the pressures of meeting deadlines.
More pressure on truckers
Truckers are already under a lot of pressure to meet the demands of their jobs. If speed limiters were on all 18-wheelers in the U.S., it might increase their stress, pressure, and anxiety to meet deadlines and make up for the lost time. This can potentially lead to more health risks as truck drivers will get slowed down by speed limiters and be unable to meet their job requirements.
How Many Truck Drivers Speed?
The FMCSA released a report which showed the citations given by law enforcement to truck drivers across the United States. The citations were given for exceeding the speed limit, even slightly.
Below, you can see the data on these citations:
Six to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit: 67,487 citations given to truck drivers
11 to 14 miles per hour over the speed limit: 28,325 citations given to truck drivers
15 or more miles per hour over the speed limit: 15,510 citations given to truck drivers
When looking at these citation numbers, remember that accidents did not always occur for truck drivers to receive citations. When the police officers pulled over the truckers, they decided they were going at an unnecessary pace that may put others in danger. You may think that these citations are a lot, but the truth is that many truck drivers get away with speeding.
The American Trucking Association states that there are over 12 million drivers in the trucking industry, not including self-employed drivers, and more than 100,000 serious truck accidents happen annually. The number one cause of truck accidents is speeding, so many truck drivers have learned to slow down around cops to avoid getting caught speeding.
Previous Failed Attempts to Require Speed Limiters on Semi-Trucks
The federal government has made a few attempts to require speed limiters on commercial trucks. One of the most recent attempts was in 2019 when legislators proposed the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act, but it ultimately did not pass. The bill wanted to require all new commercial trucks that are over 26,001 pounds have speed limiters of 65 miles per hour installed.
Before that proposal, the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wanted to implement a rule that did not allow big rigs to reach 70 miles per hour. However, it failed to pass as well.
What Should You Do After an Accident Involving a Speeding Truck Driver?
Speeding 18-wheelers pose a significant threat to not only the drivers of the large trucks but also the passenger vehicles driving nearby. Everyone on the same road as a speeding commercial truck driver is at a very high risk of suffering injuries in a dangerous crash. The truck is much larger than a regular vehicle, the load they are transporting is very heavy, and it can be easy for the driver to lose control in an instant and cause a wreck. Big rigs need a lot of space and time to slow down and stop at an appropriate time, and speeding decreases the chances of this successfully happening. Therefore, all drivers and their vehicles may experience damage and losses in any sudden changes in traffic or weather.
If you or a family member has been in an accident with a semi-truck and you believe that speed was a factor, it is best to consult with a truck accident lawyer and find out what legal options may be best for you. A truck accident lawyer will investigate your claim, examine all the presented facts and evidence, and determine if you have a case. For those with viable cases, you will need to show police reports, medical records, witness statements, video footage, photos, and anything else you can think of that will help your truck accident attorney build a powerful case.
Your attorney will stand up for you and ensure you understand every legal process step. While you focus on your recovery, an experienced attorney will ensure you achieve your desired outcome whenever possible. Truck drivers who drive recklessly and carelessly should be accountable for their actions. You can get the legal help you need by calling an experienced truck accident attorney in your area as soon as possible.
Never Wait to Seek Help From a Truck Accident Lawyer
You might not know where to begin when seeking compensation for your truck accident injuries and losses, but an experienced lawyer does. Get the medical treatment you need and then consult with an attorney about your legal options. Consultations are free, and a personal injury lawyer will advise you of your rights.