Senate Examines New Speed Limiter Law
Trucking news is not new. The idea of a speed limiter - or the DOT's speed limiter mandate – is outdated. In September 2016, the USDOT began looking into the possibility of speed regulators being implemented in new commercial trucks. After Donald Trump's election, the proposal received both praise and criticism. It was eventually scrapped. A new Senate bill brought the issue back up.
The Senate bill is unlikely to pass. However, it may end up in a larger bill that still passes. It is important to understand the issue, its pros, and cons, and how the speed limiter mandate could impact car shipping services.
Here's a quick overview of the speed limiter mandate
A speed regulator would be required to be installed on every new truck. This regulator would limit the truck's maximum speed to 65mph.
The speed limiter proposal is supported by proponents who claim it will make roads safer, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Opponents claim that the proposed speed limiter will make roads more dangerous due to increased instances of "rolling roadway blocks." This is when two trucks drive side by side on a highway and prevent other motorists from passing them or seeing beyond them.
Numerous large fleets have used speed regulators since at most 2009 and the evidence seems back speed limiters being a useful way of keeping our roads safer. The jury is still out on this one.
Speed limiter mandate: The pros
Schneider, a major company, has used speed limiters since 2009. They repeatedly stated that accidents have decreased and fuel economy has improved since the implementation of speed limiters. It makes perfect sense. Trucks are less likely to be involved in speed-related accidents by having their speeds limited to 65 mph. Accidents that occur have lower injury and death rates than those that don't.
A 2012 DOT study supports this conclusion. The article linked above shows that trucks without limiters experienced 16.4 accidents per 100 trucks, whereas trucks with limiters experienced 11 crashes per 100 trucks. This report included more than 150,000 trucks involved in more than 28,000 accidents between 2007 and 2009.
The study also found that speed-related crashes involving speed limiters were just 1.4 per 100 trucks each year. The rate of trucks that did not use a speed limiter was five crashes per 100 trucks each year, which is more than three times the rate. According to the DOT, a speed limit of 60 mph could prevent 500 deaths annually. A limit of 65 mph could prevent around 200 deaths while a limit of 68 mph would prevent about 100 deaths. A maximum speed of 60mph can save you up to $6,000 annually on fuel. Although this is less with higher speeds, it still saves hundreds of dollars each year.
Pros and cons of speed limiter mandate
Speed limiters seem to be opposed primarily because they are unsafe. OOIDA, or Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, is the main opponent. Todd Spencer, OOIDA Executive vice-president, stated that limiting truck speeds could have a negative impact on traffic and could raise safety concerns.
Spencer stated that highways are safer when all vehicles travel at the exact same speed. This is again taken from the article in the previous section. "This wisdom has been in place for a long time and it has never changed."
This is the idea that traffic moving at a similar relative speed will always be safer than traffic moving at different speeds. This argument seems to be based on testimony that Julie Anna Cirillo (FMCSA) gave in 2003. Cirillo worked for the FMCSA for 34 years. She claims that speed limiters could force trucks off interstate highways onto local highways. This could raise safety concerns as they attempt to avoid speed limiters.
Another factor OOIDA mentions is the fact that most truck-related crashes involve rear-end collisions with other motorists. These types of crashes may increase if speed limiters are in place.
What speed limits could have an impact on the auto shipping industry
It is difficult to predict how the speed limiter mandate would affect the auto transportation industry if it passes. It is likely that it will have the same impact on it as any other industry. It is possible for longer shipments to take longer transit times. It is unlikely that it will do much.
It is important to realize that carriers are subject to so many regulations that they cannot legally drive more that 400 miles per day. Truck drivers are subject to higher speed limits than motorists, particularly on interstate highways. Electronic logging devices are already a problem for drivers. Some carriers could be forced off the road by speed limiters.
Despite this, we don’t want unlicensed carriers on the roads. A problem is when a carrier has to travel 80 mph on a highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. A speed limiter won't solve this problem.
However, speed limits shouldn't have any impact on the auto shipping sector more than any other. All commercial trucks must follow the same rules, regardless of the cargo they are hauling (hazardous material excluded).
Dave's view on the matter
If anyone wants it, my opinion is that speed regulators should be a necessity. However, I also see the negative side. Many highways in the United States have speeds limits of 65 mph or higher. For example, motorists can travel 80 mph on some highways in Montana. California and possibly many other states are similar.
The speed limiter will require trucks to travel 65 mph, even though the law only allows 70 mph. This makes no sense to me, although I can understand the argument. Trucks being forced to travel at a slower speed than normal could lead to more accidents, especially on and off ramps.
For the majority of highways, 60 mph is the standard. Commercial trucks should not be subject to a 65 mph speed limit. Is it necessary to enforce speed limits for carriers?
We are currently unsure if the bill will pass. As we said, it is unlikely. It won't pass unless it is inserted into another bill like a transportation bill. We'll keep you informed about what happens and how it could impact your shipment.