UNITED STATES—Heavy, fast-moving objects are difficult to stop. When they crash, their impact is tremendous, and the full magnitude of the damages left in their wake can be incalculable. This is often the case with commercial trucks. These vehicles can weigh upward of 80,000 pounds, and they are frequently 20 times heavier than the typical passenger auto.
When commercial truck accidents occur, freeways can be shut down for hours, and lives are often lost. Speed limiters represent a form of technology that’s currently being used to both prevent accidents and minimize the effects of those that occur.
With speed limiters, the idea is that reducing traveling speeds will invariably reduce the amount of a commercial vehicle’s crash force. While these devices can certainly be helpful in some instances, many truckers argue that there are also times when they’re actually detrimental.
Why Speed Limiters Have Been Introduced
Speed limiters take a wholly scientific approach to improving safety within the commercial trucking industry. Designed to prevent drivers from ever accelerating beyond 65 mph, they ensure that truckers are never:
- Traveling beyond the posted speed limit
- Operating their vehicles too fast to effectively perform evasive actions
- Driving at speeds that would maximize their crash force
The force of any automobile collision is always relative to the size of the vehicle and the speed at which it is traveling. While it is not feasible to reduce truck sizes, limiting their speeds can lower their crash force and reduce the amount of resulting damage.
In Canada, most large commercial trucks have been fitted with speed limiters since 2009. While data from this change is still being assessed, current evidence shows a reduction in commercial truck accidents of 24 percent between 2009 and 2010.
In the United States, bipartisan legislation in support of mandating the use of speed limiters was officially announced in 2019. Fortunately, many late-model commercial trucks being driven in the United States already have this technology built-in.
Factors Apart From Speed That Are Responsible for Trucking Accidents
While data collected from the widespread and mandatory use of speed limiters in Canada indicates an ability to prevent commercial truck accidents, the fact remains that many trucking accidents are not merely the result of driving at excessively high speeds.
The commercial trucking industry is notorious for maintaining unsafe work and driving conditions that are known to increase the likelihood of accidents. These include:
- Insufficient training for many new drivers
- Drivers who are not adequately tested for stimulants or other substance use
- Long hours and incentives to drive unsafe distances
- Poorly maintained commercial vehicles
While these certainly aren’t issues among all truckers and all trucking companies, they are prevalent enough to cause hundreds of accidents each year. Speed limiters do not have the power to prevent accidents that are caused by falling asleep at the wheel, driving under the influence, or having unexpected automotive failure or malfunctions occur.
Instances in Which Speed Limiters Can Be Dangerous
It’s also important to note that not all commercial trucking accidents are the fault of commercial truck drivers. Just as truckers are guilty of speeding and overtaking other autos, motorists in small-sized passenger vehicles are known to both speed and make unsafe maneuvers as well.
Even though commercial vehicles are larger and capable of causing far greater damage, this does not always place their operators at fault. You can read more about liability in truck accident cases to find out which factors are used to determine responsibility.
Surprisingly, many truck drivers assert that because of the aggressive actions that motorists in passenger vehicles often make, there are times when having speed limiters in their vehicles is actually unsafe. For instance, it may be necessary for a trucker to speed up beyond the maximum 65 mph limit to avoid a collision. Absent of the ability to do so, truckers may lack options in evasive actions.
The introduction and increasingly widespread use of speed limiters is but one of many efforts to increase safety within the commercial trucking industry. By limiting maximum driving speeds, this technology limits maximum crash force. However, there remain multiple factors known for causing commercial trucking accidents that speed limiters are simply not designed to address.