When driving on the freeway and you find your car wedged between two large semi-trucks, barreling down the road, do you ever think, "I wish they'd slow down?" If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gets its way, limited speeds will be the law for commercial trucks.
Several years ago the American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America asked NHTSA to make a rule requiring installation of speed limiters in all commercial trucks built in or after the 1990s. Speed limiters would limit heavy truck drivers from driving over 68 mph.
NHTSA has gathered comments about the proposal and is now considering making a rule.
At least two trucking carriers, Schneider National and J.B. Hunt Transport, already limit their trucks. Schneider installed speed limiters in all of their trucks in 1996 after finding that heavy trucks without limiters caused 40 percent of the company's serious truck accidents even though those trucks only drove 17 percent of the company's total miles.
It is believed that speed limiters will create economic and safety benefits. According to the Technology and Maintenance Council of ATA, when a truck increases its speed by 1 mph, it also consumes 0.1mpg more gas - so driving 10 mph faster means a loss of 1 mpg in gas mileage. Additionally, for every 1 mph over 55 mph tire tread life is reduced by 1 percent - so the faster truckers drive, the shorter the life of a truck's tires.
Additionally, high speeds increase the severity of truck accidents, as the faster a truck is going, the less time a driver has to respond and bring the truck to a stop. Some critics worry that limiting truck speeds on the highways will mean that cars drive a lot faster and that could cause accidents. But it is believed that fewer accidents will happen due to speed differential than those caused by speeding trucks.
Once a speed limiter regulation is adopted, the U.S. will be joining Europe, Australia, Japan and several Canadian provinces, all who already limit 18-wheelers, commercial trucks and busses to speeds below 65 mph.