Division of Transportation proposes use of speed limiters to reduce large truck crashes

A new federal proposal would require the use of speed limiters in certain commercial vehicles, which could greatly reduce speed-related large truck crashes.

Speeding is one of the most common violations that truckers in West Virginia are cited for during roadside inspections. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2015, over 26 percent of citations issued in the state involved speed limit violations. Sadly, these violations can have catastrophic consequences for other motorists, as higher travel speeds can raise the likelihood of an accident and produce more catastrophic large truck crashes.

Fortunately for Charleston residents, the U.S. Department of Transportation is now considering a new approach to address this issue. A recent proposal would require certain commercial vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds to install speed-limiting devices, which physically prevent a vehicle from surpassing a specified travel speed.

Proposed changes

The proposal would require that all new trucks, buses and other vehicles of qualifying weight be outfitted with speed-limiting devices. The proposal currently does not require older vehicles to be retrofitted with the devices. However, many large trucks already have speed limiters installed, so this change could have significant impacts.

The Division of Transportation (DOT) estimates that the use of speed-limiting devices could reduce annual fuel costs by over $1 billion and save hundreds of lives, according to The Sioux City Journal. The specific impact on roadway safety depends on the speed limit chosen. A 68-mph speed limit would prevent enough accidents to save 98 lives each year, according to DOT projections. A 65-mph limit would spare 214 lives, while a limit of 60 mph would save a significant 498 lives.

Additional benefits

Forcibly limiting the travel speeds of large trucks could also help prevent one serious type of speed-related truck accident. In 2015, an AP investigation found that large trucks frequently travel at speeds that their tires are not rated to withstand. In some states, local laws even permit these dangerously high travel speeds.

According to the investigation, when trucks travel faster than 75 mph, blowouts and related accidents are significantly more likely. Although the speed limit for trucks in West Virginia is 70 mph, citation records show that many truckers violate this limit and travel at speeds that could result in blowouts. The use of speed-limiting devices could help mitigate this risk.

Addressing preventable truck accidents

Sadly, even if this initiative succeeds, FMCSA data suggests that other reckless behaviors on the part of truck drivers will continue to endanger motorists. In 2015, truckers in West Virginia were also frequently cited for ignoring traffic signals, committing hours-of-service violations and operating their vehicles without proper licenses. All of these actions have potential to harm innocent motorists.

When accidents result from these negligent actions, victims may have the right to seek compensation for their injuries and other damages. Documenting the circumstances of a truck crash and proving that the truck driver was liable can be a difficult task, however. Consequently, victims of truck crashes should consider consulting with our lawyers for advice and assistance in seeking recourse.