Could Slowing Tractor-Trailers Down Have a Negative Impact on Highway Safety?


January 17, 2015

The massive weight differential between a tractor-trailer and a small passenger car can have devastating consequences during a collision between these vehicles.  Given that a big-rig transporting a maximum load can weigh 25 times more than a passenger car, the assumption that slowing these large trucks down would have a positive impact on roadway safety seems reasonable.  The simply logic of Newton’s law – Force = Mass x Acceleration – would seem an intuitive basis for such an assumption.  However, a proposal to force trucking companies and truck drivers to install governors that limit the speed of big-rigs has generated considerable debate regarding the proposal’s potential safety benefits.  The trucking industry and some others have gone as far as to suggest that this equipment will make the roads less safe.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) made a proposal last spring that trucks weighing in excess of 26,000 pounds be equipped with a governor that would limit the maximum speed of the vehicles.  While the maximum speed that would be imposed has not been decided, the suggestion was 68 miles per hour.  Although the notion of a tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 pounds barreling down the interstate at 75 miles per hour sounds frightening, the argument made by the trucking industry is interesting.

Many freeways and interstates have posted speed limits as high as 70, 75 or even 80 mile per hour.  The flow of traffic on these roadways is often higher than the posted speed limit.  Opponents of the speed limiting devices contend that mechanically imposing a cap on the speed of big-rigs could result in rolling roadblocks that disrupt the flow of traffic.

The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has argued that roadways are safer when all vehicles are moving at similar speeds.  The organization cites data that indicates driver frustration with slow moving tractor-trailers is a common factor in collisions between tractor-trailers and passenger cars.  If governors are used to limit speed, large trucks would have a more difficult time passing each other and exacerbate motorist frustration with interruptions in traffic flow caused by big-rigs.

Proponents of the proposal indicate that speed is magnified as a factor in crashes involving tractor-trailers.  Because of the weight of large trucks, they require longer stopping distances.  Further, if a truck is traveling at a higher rate of speed, a truck driver needs a longer stopping distance when faced with an unanticipated road hazard or traffic back-up.  Slowing trucks down would mean that drivers have more time to react to avoid a crash.  In situations where a crash cannot be avoided, reduced speed means less force is generated in the collision, which can reduce the extent of injury to victims in the other vehicle.

While it might be predictable that the trucking industry would be against this proposal, the trucking industry’s position is more nuanced than one might expect.  The American Trucking Association (ATA), an industry trade group, actually supports the installation of governors.  Anti-fatigue rules limit the hours a truck driver can be on the road, which might suggest that slowing trucks down will result in lost profits for trucking companies.  However, the universal nature of the rule would mean that the playing field would be leveled for all trucking companies.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 30 Years of Legal Experience to Work For You!

The debate over limiting the speed of large trucks will continue, but many people will continue to be injured in trucking accidents.  If you or someone you love has been injured in a crash involving a tractor-trailer, you may be entitled to financial compensation.  Our attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.  No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.  

Category: Truck Accidents

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