Yet another tug-of-war over traffic safety. Need a Vision Zero resolution.
- Speed limiters are unsafe when sharing our highways with motorists, specifically, concerns with car–truck speed differential.
- Points for the NHTSA to consider:
- Possibility that fatal truck accidents can actually be caused by the use of speed limiters. FMCSA studies should be conducted showing the comparison of high speed fatal truck accidents (without speed limiters) vs. fatal truck accidents involving the use of speed limiters.
- Better company CDL training programs mandated and enforced to ensure new drivers are safe and responsible. Trainers should remain in passenger seat at all times observing trainee behavior and not sleeping in the birth.
- The ATA has stated repeatedly, especially during their arguments involving the new hours of service proposal, that fatal truck crashes have been reduced significantly in the last few years.
- If speed limits are no longer considered safe, then perhaps it is the speed limits themselves that need to be re-evaluated rather than placing speed limiters on certain commercial vehicles. This would also address the need to reduce fuel consumption and fuel emissions for ALL vehicles, not just heavy trucks. It would also prevent a speed differential between trucks and cars, which JB HUNT has stated, “This speed differential may cause a safety hazard…”
- CSA, better driver training, PSP driver profiles for hiring, higher wages, and well rested drivers will create the safest roads…. not more regulations. Regulations are just the quick fix to divert from the more deep rooted problems of the trucking industry.
Has their concern been adequately addressed?
Here are comments on the issue as posted in the Federal Register:
On January 26, 2007, NHTSA and FMCSA published a joint Request for Comments Notice in theFederal Registersoliciting public comments onthe ATA and Road Safe America petitions. The Department of Transportation Docket Management System received approximately 3,850 comments into Docket No. NHTSA-2007-26851, the majority of which were submitted by private citizens. Of these, many comments supported a regulation that would limit the speed of large trucks to 68 mph, which included comments from trucking fleets and consumer advocacy groups, and others. Other comments submitted by independent owner-operator truckers, a trucking fleet association, and private citizens were opposed to the rulemaking requested in the petitions. The remaining comments did not explicitly indicate a position with regard to the petitions.
Comments from private citizens supporting the petitions include responses from individuals who were involved in crashes with heavy trucks or had friends/relatives who were involved in crashes with large trucks. The private citizen supporters of the petitions are typically non-truck drivers who stated that they are intimidated by the hazardous driving practices of some truck drivers, such as speeding, tailgating, and abrupt lane changes. These commenters expressed the belief that limiting the speed of heavy trucks to 68 mph will result in safer highways.
Some of the organizations supporting the petition provided similar reasons for their support and the selected comments summarized below cover the range of issues they discussed.
Schneider National, Inc., a major trucking fleet, indicated that its trucks have been speed limited to 65 mph since 1996. According to Schneider’s crash data from its own fleet, vehicles without speed limiters accounted for 40 percent of the company’s serious collisions while driving 17 percent of the company’s total miles. Schneider stated that its vehicles have a significantly lower crash rate than large trucks that are not speed limited or have a maximum speed setting greater than 65 mph.
J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., another trucking fleet, commented that a differential speed between cars and large trucks will result from trucks being equipped with speed limiters set below the posted speed limit. This speed differential may cause a safety hazard. However, J. B. Hunt believes that the current safety hazard caused by large trucks traveling at speeds in excess of posted limits is a greater safety hazard.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) commented that large trucks require 20-40 percent more braking distance than passenger cars and light trucks for a given travel speed. Advocates does not believe that the data in the 1991 report to Congress (2) are still valid because the speed limits posted by the States over the past ten years are much higher than the national posted speed limit of 55 mph that was in effect in 1991.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) stated that 97 percent of the occupants that are killed in crashes between heavy trucks and passenger vehicles are passenger vehicle occupants. IIHS stated that on-board electronic engine control modules (ECM) will maintain the desired speed control for vehicles when enforcement efforts are not sufficient due to lack of resources. IIHS stated that there is already widespread use of speed governors by carriers and a mandate will result in net safety and economic benefits.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) stated that large trucks are 3 percent of registered vehicles and represent about 8 percent of the total miles traveled nationwide. Also, GHSA believes that it is prudent to consider speed limiting devices since they are currently installed in large trucks and can be adapted to be tamper-resistant. It stated that conventional approaches to vehicle speed control do not provide optimal benefits because of a lack of enforcement resources and too many miles of highway to cover.
Several comments, including those from ATA’s Truck Maintenance Council, provided information concerning economic, non-safety benefits that would result from large truck speed limiters. The Truck Maintenance Council stated that an increase of 1 mph results in a 0.1 mpg increase in fuel consumption, and for every 1 mph increase in speed over 55 mph, there is a reduction of 1 percent in tire tread life.
Comments opposing rulemaking that would require speed limiters on large trucks to be set to a maximum speed of 68 mph were received from many independent truck drivers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), and private citizens (non-truck drivers).
OOIDA commented that the 1991 report to Congress (3) is still valid today—there is no need to mandate speed limiters because the target population (high speed crashes) is still small compared to the total number of truck crashes. According to OOIDA, speed limiters would not have an effect on crashes in areas where the posted speed limit for trucks is 65 mph or below. OOIDA believes that the petitioners are attempting to force all trucks to be speed limited so that the major trucking companies with speed limited vehicles can compete for drivers with the independent trucking operations that have not limited their speeds to 68 mph or below. OOIDA also stated that it is not necessary to set large truck speed limiters at 68 mph to realize most of the economic benefits cited by the petitioners because improved fuel economy and reduced emissions can be achieved with improved truck designs.
TCA commented that a speed differential will be created in many States by the 68-mph speed limit for heavy trucks and a higher speed limit for other vehicles. This speed differential will result in more interaction between cars and trucks and may be an additional safety risk for cars and trucks.
According to comments from CDW Transport, a trucking fleet, speed limiters should be required on passenger vehicles as well as commercial motor vehicles.
Several comments from private citizens and small businesses opposed to the petitions stated that speed is not the only cause of crashes, that weather and highway conditions are also significant factors. There were comments stating that passenger vehicles cause the majority of the crashes between trucks and passenger vehicles. Some comments stated that truck drivers will experience more fatigue with a 68-mph maximum speed, which could result in more crashes; some comments expressed the opinion that State and local law enforcement agencies should enforce the speed of all vehicles on the nation’s roads and highways; several comments favored a 75-mph limit for truck speed limiters, instead of 68 mph, to match the highest posted speed limit in the country.
The Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) provided information concerning the cost of tamper-proof speed limiters for large trucks. TMA estimates a one-time cost of $35 to $50 million would be required to develop ECMs with tamper-resistant speed limiters and a one-time cost of $150 million to $200 million to develop ECMs with tamper-proof speed limiters. With both of these ECM designs, there would be additional costs to make adjustments to the ECM for maximum speed, tire size, and drive axle and transmission gear ratio information.