Report: DOT aims to reduce truck accidents with speed limiting devices

The U.S. DOT has proposed equipping new commercial vehicles with speed limiting devices to cut back on speed-involved trucking accidents.

Collisions involving large commercial vehicles are an all too common occurrence on the streets and highways throughout Mississippi and the rest of the U.S. In fact, there were approximately 415,000 such trucking accidents reported in 2015 alone, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Often involving high rates of speed, semitrailer wrecks frequently result in serious injuries or death. The FMCSA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have proposed a new mandate aimed at reducing the prevalence of speed-related truck crashes, and their potentially devastating effects.

Why is speeding dangerous for large trucks?

Driving in excess of the posted speed limits or faster than the conditions allow may be particularly dangerous for large commercial vehicles. The FMCSA points out that when travelling at a speed of 55 mph in ideal conditions, it takes fully loaded tractor-trailers an average of 196 feet to stop. This distance may be increased as these vehicles travel at faster speeds, as well as due to poor weather conditions or road surfaces. Consequently, truck operators may be unable to slow or stop their vehicles in time to avoid a collision, which could result in serious injuries for them or the occupants of any other involved automobiles.

In the unfortunate event that a trucking accident occurs, semitrailers may be prone to tipping, jackknifing or being otherwise out of control at higher speeds. Further, added speed may increase the impact of such crashes, potentially resulting in more severe injuries and damage.

Limiting commercial vehicle speeds

The FMCSA and NHTSA have proposed a rule that would require newly manufactured commercial vehicles in the U.S. to be equipped with speed limiting devices. The mandate would apply to all trucks, multipurpose passenger vehicles and buses weighing 26,000 pounds or more. The regulatory agencies suggest that restricting the speeds at which large trucks can travel will save lives, as well as fuel usage and costs.

Speed limiting devices work by detecting how fast an automobile is traveling using a series of electronic sensors. Also known as a governor, the speed limiter communicates the speed information to the engine's computer. Once the vehicle reaches a pre-specified maximum speed, the computer restricts its ability to accelerate further. A final decision has not been made on the maximum speed these devices would allow, but the proposal considers setting the limit at 68, 65 or 60 mph.

Proposal draws support and opposition

The FMCSA and NHTSA's proposal has drawn both support and ire. Those in favor of the mandate tout it as a safety and environmental win. Beyond possibly saving lives, it is estimated that the implementation of these devices could save millions of gallons of fuel and up to $1.1 billion in fuel costs each year. The opposition argues the rule is not extensive enough and should apply to more than just new commercial vehicles. Further, they claim truckers' ability to avoid hazards and collisions may be impeded by limiting their speeds.

Working with a lawyer

When people are involved in trucking accidents in Mississippi and elsewhere, they may suffer severe injuries, requiring extensive medical treatment and time off work to heal. In addition to losing wages while they are not working, those who have experienced such situations may also incur undue expenses, including unexpected medical bills. Thus, people who have been injured as a result of commercial vehicle-involved collisions may find it helpful to seek legal counsel. George B. Ready can explain your rights and help you understand your options for pursuing compensation for your losses.