Did you know: An 80,000 pound tractor trailer traveling at 30 mph has a stopping distance of 100 feet? Doubling this speed, it would take the same truck traveling at 60 mph 426 feet to come to a complete stop. With only a 5 mph increase (now traveling at 65 mph) the distance required to stop increases almost another 100 feet to 525.
As you can clearly see, the faster a tractor trailer travels, the greater the number of feet it takes for the truck to come to a stop. Now consider a truck that is exceeding the speed limit by 5, 10, even 15 mph on the interstate when it suddenly has to come to a stop due to sudden traffic, a construction zone, or a recent accident. With the additional stopping distance required on speeding trucks, do you think the driver will stop in time?
Earlier this week, the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) approved a policy stemming from a 2006 petition that would support a limitation on the maximum speed of an 80,000 pound tractor trailer.
According to the policy, commercial trucks would acquire a speed limiter that would restrict them to a maximum speed of 65 mph.
As truckersnews.com states, the “National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expects to issue an Aug. 12 notice for proposed rulemaking to mandate speed limiting devices for heavy trucks.” 1
The policy plays off of a petition filed in 2006 by Roads Safe America and nine carriers that would mandate all trucks modeled 1990 to present and having a gross vehicle weight of over 26,000 lbs. to limit their maximum speed to 68 mph. 1 The American Trucking Associations filed a similar petition thereafter.
The NHTSA requested comments regarding the petitions in 2007, receiving nearly 3,850 with the majority being in support of the speed limitation.
The TCA is stepping up to promote safety and to give the trucking industry a better image. According to TCA President Chris Burruss, “I think this is the type of policy that presents the opportunity for our industry to increase our visibility in a positive way. It says that not only do we preach safety, but that we are going to walk the walk.” 2
In addition, Burruss is challenging “other groups that say they are committed to safety to step up as well, such as calling on AAA to support a similar mandate for personal vehicles.” 3
Speed limiters come with many benefits, one of them being cost-efficiency. By limiting a driver’s speed, and therefore reducing the number of “cowboys” (those drivers constantly running fast) on the road, carriers can cut back on fuel and tire costs.
And of course, safety is a large reason why implementation is being sought for speed limiters.
Take, for example, a few months ago when a tractor trailer overturned in Springfield Pike, PA, skidding nearly 50 feet before causing some serious damage.
According to state police, the driver (identified as 44-year-old Rodney Crow of Kentucky) was speeding when he failed to make the curve, losing control and crashing into a telephone pole, three parked cars, two homes, and another telephone pole. 4
The accident came as no surprise as neighbors indicated trucks traveling at high speeds all the time down the hill, with one driver being killed in the same spot five years ago and both houses being struck in the past.
Fortunately, those families living in the houses that Crow hit were not injured.
But let’s look at a case where a driver’s speed did lead to some heavy consequences.
Last June, John Davis Trucking Company driver Lawrence Valli plowed through the railroad crossings in Nevada, striking two of ten Amtrak railcars headed for California, causing it to catch fire and resulting in six fatalities. Under further investigation, it was discovered that Valli had an additional two speeding violations, one of which resulting in him hitting a stopped car on Interstate 80 five years back that which resulted in three injuries.
Speed limiters may reduce a driver’s “need for speed,” and in return, reduce the stopping distance, but Road Scholar Transport takes it a step further.
Imagine going 65 mph, which would be the maximum speed if mandated, when the vehicle in front of you decides to suddenly stop or drastically slow down. You cringe at the shortened distance between you and the forward vehicle, and although you quickly react, brace yourself at the high risk of an accident.
But Road Scholar’s equipped with the Bendix Wingman ACB System on our trucks.
Simply put, ACB will cause our truck to maintain a set distance of 8/10ths of a mile marker behind a forward vehicle.
When cruise control is off, the ACB will deliver a beeping alert, which gets faster and louder when closing in on a vehicle, as well as a visual warning on the dashboard showing how far the vehicle is from our truck.
When cruise control is on, the ACB will automatically reduce the throttle, use the engine retarder, or apply the brakes (delivering 1/3 the vehicle’s power but the driver can apply the rest if needed) in order to maintain a set distance from the vehicle ahead, and thus, make sure that our vehicle remains a comfortable distance in case of sudden stops.
Although some trucking companies already have speed limiters as well as other safety technology on their trucks, Burruss notes that not all groups will support the policy, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) being one of them.
OOIDA argued that “high speed crashes represents a small percentage of all truck accidents,” and therefore, speed limiters were unnecessary; however, the TCA acknowledged that “the mandate would result in a speed differential between trucks and cars that would result in more crashes.” 1
On top of that, groups are arguing over the cost of implementing tamper-resistant speed limiters. According to truckersnews.com, it would cost around “$35 million to $50 million to develop tamper-resistant devices and a one-time cost of $150 million to $200 million to develop tamper-proof ones…excluding additional costs for maximum speed, tire size and drive axle and transmission gear ratio information.”
Do you feel that the cost to implement these devices is too high or is it worth it?
Here are some top anti-collision technology devices that carriers should implement on trucks to help enforce safety on the road:
-anti-lock braking systems (Such as the Bendix Wingman ACB System mentioned above)
-electronic and roll stability control systems (Stability control systems, which became available in 2002, are becoming more and more by truck manufacturers and carriers to prevent rollovers and increase safety on the road. Bendix and WABCO are two main contenders manufacturing this technology. Stability control systems are expected to save over a hundred of the 700 fatalities per year).
-lane departure warning system (Alerts when a driver is beginning to swerve into the other lane)
Do you support mandatory speed limiters? Why or why? Have you or anyone you know been affected by a truck driver traveling at excessive speeds? List your comments below.