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Examining the link between speed limiters and truck accidents

Nearly everyone in Houston has probably experienced a time when they found themselves stuck on the highway or freeway behind a slow-moving semi-truck or tractor trailer. While such instances might be a temporary annoyance, seeing these vehicles moving at slower speeds should be an encouraging sign to drivers. Given the massive sizes of these trucks, they can be extremely difficult to stop and/or maneuver at high speeds. Thus, truck drivers who consistently break the speed limit could pose a greater risk of causing a truck accident.

The days of speeding trucks on the road could soon be coming to an end, however. According to the trucking publication Overdrive, the U.S. Department of Transportation is currently endorsing legislation that would require all vehicles with a gross vehicular weight of over 26,000 lbs. to have speed limiters. While the official suggested speed ceiling has yet to be revealed, industry insiders believe it will be somewhere around 68 mph.

Speed limiters work as follows:

  •          A predetermined speed is entered into the truck engine’s computer.
  •          In-vehicle sensors detect how fast the truck is traveling and relays that information to the computer.  
  •          When the predetermined speed is reached, the computer restricts the air and fuel flow to the engine, prohibiting the truck from exceeding that speed.

While the idea that fewer speeding trucks on the road will lower accident totals has its merits, there are some questioning if speed limiters truly are the answer. Research compiled by the American Trucking Association shows that of the carriers that participated in their study, those that had no speed limiters in their vehicles had a trucking accident rate of 9.1 collisions per 100 vehicles per year. Carriers whose vehicles had speed limiters actually showed a higher rate of 11.2 accidents per comparable truck numbers. 

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