A new proposal from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) would require that new technology be added to trucks operating on US highways to impose a maximum speed cap. The idea, put forth in August, has been presented as both a life-saving and a cost-saving measure: At the strictest of the limits being discussed, the NHTSA estimates that the change could prevent nearly 500 crash fatalities each year and save as much as $5 billion.
The proposal isn’t without opposition, however. While the American Trucking Association (ATA) supports the move (they’ve urged the NHTSA to make such a change since 2006), other groups, such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, have long argued against speed-limiting devices and any government requirement for them.
The new rules would only affect a few types of vehicles. Getting most of the attention are large trucks with a gross vehicle weight (including their load) of 26,000 pounds or more. The regulation would also extend to both passenger buses (motor coaches) and school buses.
The NHTSA’s primary concern, as noted in the published regulations, is to reduce the severity of truck crashes and the number of crash fatalities, although it includes information on anticipated financial costs and savings as well. For the ten-year period ending in 2013, the NHTSA found that each year there was an average of 1,044 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses. Speed was a known factor in some of those crashes, including a 2008 bus crash in Utah that killed nine and injured forty-three.
The NHTSA states that its primary motivation with this proposal is improving highway safety, but they cite other benefits while at the same time acknowledging some costs. For instance, they concede that the program could cost a minimum of more than $200 million each year because of slowed delivery times. If the slowest proposed limit is enforced, that cost could reach more than $1.5 billion.
On the positive side, their estimates suggest that capping large vehicle speeds could save up to $1.1 billion in fuel costs annually, and that’s before attempting to calculate the cost savings from reduced greenhouse gas emissions. When all costs and savings are factored in, the agency expects to see a minimum net benefit of half a billion dollars in savings. At the strictest potential standard that could reach $5 billion.
The numbers vary so widely because the NHTSA looked at scenarios with three different maximum speed limits: sixty, sixty-five, and sixty-eight miles per hour. The greatest savings occur at sixty miles per hour, but even with a sixty-eight miles-per-hour cap, it would be a net positive. And that’s without even considering the lives that would be saved.
Few people are aware that the technology to enforce speed limits on large trucks is already in place in the United States, it just isn’t being used much.
By contrast, other parts of the world have taken advantage of it for years: Europe, Japan, and Australia, for instance, have all restricted their maximum truck speeds successfully. In Europe, the cap was set low compared to the US proposal, at fifty-six miles per hour. In the United States, some of the largest trucking companies have already enabled the technology on their trucks because they understand the most important point in this discussion: their own bottom line.
Any vehicle on the road can cause a crash, and very few crashes are truly “accidents.” Some form of careless behavior by the driver of a vehicle is the cause of 94 percent of all crashes. While speed is a factor in many crashes, trucks aren’t the only culprits. The NHTSA’s own research finds that speed is more of a problem with passenger cars.
Whatever the cause and whatever the type of vehicle that caused your accident, Craig Swapp & Associates can help. Our attorneys understand the complexities of car and truck accident cases, and we’re ready to put our knowledge to work for you. Give us a call today at 1-800-404-9000 or complete the form below to schedule a free consultation. For immediate answers to many of your questions, you can also launch the LiveChat feature from any page of this website.