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A bipartisan bill that aims to require speed limiters on heavy trucks has been introduced in the Senate, the latest attempt by lawmakers to revive an issue that for years has been circulating on Capitol Hill.
Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) on June 27 introduced the legislation, which would require new commercial trucks weighing 26,001 pounds or more to have devices that would limit their speed to 65 mph. The devices would be required only for new trucks; the law would not apply to those on the road that don’t already have speed limiter devices.
“The majority of trucks on our roads already have speed-limiting technology built in, and the rest of the technologically advanced world has already put them to use to ensure drivers follow safe speeds,” Isakson said.
Legislative attempts to require speed limiters on trucks date back as far as 2011, but none of the proposals has advanced.
“[This legislation] will help reduce accidents on our roadways by requiring the use of speed-limiting technology in large trucks — a step that many companies have already taken to promote safety and fuel efficiency,” Coons added.
American Trucking Associations said it is reviewing the details of the bill. "Our policies support speed limiters but were adopted in the context of more uniform national speed limits for all vehicles," the association said in a release. "As the national trend on speed limits moves in the opposite direction with increasing variance, federal speed limiter efforts must at a minimum account for speed differentials and any potential safety risks that they can create.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated in a preliminary report issued in June that fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck increased by 3% in 2018 from 2017, despite a decrease of about 1% for all vehicles over the same period. The report did not break down the number of truck-involved fatalities.
In April, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that more than 36,000 lives could have been saved if states had not increased their maximum speed limits during the 25-year period between 1993 and 2017.
“The speed at which a motor vehicle is traveling affects both the likelihood of a crash and the severity of the crash,” IIHS said in the study. “Increased speed increases the energy of a collision.”
The IIHS maintains that speed-limiting could be the first step in moving toward their definition of safer roads.
“Keeping speed in check is one part of what should be a broader safety strategy,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for IIHS. “We also need to get other crash-avoidance technologies like front-crash prevention and blind spot detection on large trucks; we need to keep an effective hours-of-service rule for operators on the books; and we need to look for expanded ways to get trucks with defective equipment like subpar brakes off the road.”