If Commercial Trucks Couldn’t Violate Speed Limits Would Highways Be Safer?

October 14th, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

Do you think commercial trucks drive too fast on Kentucky’s highways? The federal government is proposing that engines of trucks and buses weighing more than 26,000 pounds and manufactured after the regulation goes into effect  must have electronic devices limiting how fast they can go. While most of these vehicles already have limiters or governors, many independent trucking companies are voicing opposition to the proposal.

Speeds for these commercial trucks could be as high as 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour if the rule is made final after a comment period ends November 7. Some trucker owners claim this limit will lead to traffic jams and potentially more accidents due to slower speed and resulting traffic backups.

  • Some truckers claim that their trucks will pose a danger because other vehicles on the road will be able to go faster. A car going 70 miles an hour or faster, depending on traffic and conditions, could rear-end a semi-trailer going 60 because the car can’t slow down enough, quickly enough.
  • If all trucks are limited, it may be very difficult for one truck to pass another. It could result in “rolling road blocks” with traffic backups behind them and other drivers unsafely trying to pass the trucks. Though the number of accidents involving commercial trucks and passenger cars may go down, there may be more accidents overall due to poor traffic flow.
  • Truck drivers may also be more tempted to speed in areas where the speed limit is lower, such as in construction zones or urban stretches of highway, to make up for lost time.

The proposed regulation comes from the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These agencies say the proposal makes sense because slower trucks will be safer not because of the laws on the books but due to the laws of physics: the slower a truck is travelling, the lower the force the truck will deliver in a collision with another vehicle, and that should reduce the number of fatalities and lessen the severity of injuries.

  • The NHTSA looked at data from 2004 to 2013 and found that, on average, 1,044 people died per year in crashes involving heavy trucks on roads with speed limits of at least 55 mph.
  • It estimates that if truck speeds were limited to 60 mph, 162 to 498 deaths per year could be avoided due to the reduced severity of the crashes. If limited to 65 mph, up to 214 lives would be saved, and that number drops to 96 if commercial trucks were limited to 68 mph.
  • The Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that of 438,000 crashes involving commercial trucks in 2014, in 38% the front of the truck was the impact point, while a truck was rear-ended 24% of the time.

Larger truck companies and their industry group, the American Trucking Association, support the proposed regulation. Most commercial trucks owned by larger trucking companies already have limiters. The proposed regulation was sparked in part by Steve Owings of Atlanta, who started a petition in 2006. His son was killed by a speeding truck in 2002.

If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident in Kentucky, you can rely on the Julie Butcher Law Office, which has extensive experience handling the claims of those injured in commercial motor vehicle accidents. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help your family obtain justice.