The federal government wants to force trucks, buses and other large rigs to slow down.
The proposal isn’t about reducing posted speed limits. Instead, a device would be required on any new U.S.-made vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds that would limit the top speed of the vehicle.
The National Highway Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration say the device would save lives and fuel.
Each year, more than 1,100 fatal crashes involve heavy trucks. Regulated slower speeds would, in theory, reduce the number of crashes.
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But the devices would only be installed in new U.S.-built trucks, limiting its effectiveness. And it would also limit the drivers’ control of their vehicles. There may be times for safety where they would need to go over the speed cap but would be unable to when passing or other scenarios.
The cap is proposed at 60, 65 or 68 miles an hour.
While safety groups applaud the proposal, some say it’s not good enough and should apply to all trucks of all ages and makes. Estimates are that it could cost from $100 to $2,000 per vehicle to retrofit those vehicles. Trucks built before 1990 don’t even have the capability to add the speed regulating device.
Truck drivers worry that traveling slower than the flow of traffic might cause more accidents or impatient car drivers who have to constantly slow down or pass trucks on busy highways.
Slow-moving trucks with no ability to control their top speed could certainly be a hazard on the roads. We’ve already heard of all the missteps with driverless cars. Now the proposal is to take some control of trucks away from professional drivers, and that has us worried.
We’ve all been in instances where a little speed has helped us get out of tricky spot. Truckers would no longer have that option.
Some states already have different speed limits for trucks and that seems to work well. Most truck tires aren’t designed to go more than 75 mph, so that seems like a realistic cap for maximum posted speed limits for big rigs. But manually forcing them to top out at a speed seems risky.
We understand the intent behind the proposal. Improving safety is important. But this is not a comprehensive plan, nor a realistic one from an economic standpoint. More study needs to be done on the plan.