Federal regulators have proposed and refined plans for truck speed limiters over the past decade. Commercial trucks and tractor trailers are massive vehicles and often haul heavy loads, making their ability to safely stop, slow down, or avoid a collision physically more challenging than a standard passenger car. Trucks moving at the posted speed face this challenge, and it's even more dangerous for tractor trailers that excessively speed.
Truck drivers often work under strict deadlines and may receive pay incentives for completing deliveries ahead of schedule or completing more deliveries within shorter periods of time. Drivers may elect to speed in efforts to expedite deliveries, even though this not only violates local traffic laws but could also carry over to hours-of-service violations if their schedules extend beyond limits set by the government.
In efforts to prevent speed-related truck crashes, federal regulators with an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have discussed mandating speed limiters in trucks of certain sizes. As of the most recent terms, trucks weighing in excess of 27,000 pounds would require limiters. Lawmakers have suggested for the past few years that the final rule is close to being published, but the deadline keeps slipping.
While some folks believe the speed limiters could help prevent at least one thousand crashes annually, others express concerns that drivers will become too reliant on technology. This dependence on tech devices could lead to human behaviors that could be risky behind the wheel. A driver might feel inclined to pay less attention to their driving if they depend on their speed limiter to cut off their speed when necessary. What if the system fails? What if a more reduced speed is necessary due to inclement weather? The FMCSA recommends reducing commercial motor vehicle speed by one-third on wet roads, and by at least half on snow-packed roads. As of this writing, speed limiters don't take into account road or weather conditions. According to a recent piece on NPR, "Overreliance on automation leaves workers less able to do their jobs independently and more prone to making errors."
It remains to be seen when the speed limiter rule will be published.
If you're interested in how technology is changing commercial trucks, learn about driverless trucking projects.