Study Highlights Benefits of Electric Speeds Limiters for Trucks

Speeding was a contributing factor in eight percent of all reported large truck crashes in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Research released recently by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reveals the safety benefits of using technology to electronically govern and limit the top speed of commercial trucks.

“This study confirms what ATA has been saying for years—speed kills and one of the most effective ways to prevent hundreds, if not thousands, of crashes on our highways is to slow all vehicles down, including large trucks,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves. “ATA petitioned FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration six years ago to mandate the use of speed limiters on all commercial motor vehicles manufactured since 1992 to save lives and make our industry safer. This study strengthens ATA’s case and we call on both agencies to swiftly move forward with rulemakings to ensure that these devices are required on as many trucks as possible.”

The study team, which included the American Transportation Research Institute and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, found that “multiple analyses indicated a profound safety benefit for trucks equipped with an active [speed limiter].”

Speeding was a contributing factor in eight percent of all reported large truck crashes (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2009). Moreover, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 22.9 percent of all large truck crashes and 10.4 percent of large truck/passenger car crashes were coded as “traveling too fast for conditions” (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2006).

One technology used by truck fleets to lower the overall top speed of their trucks is a speed limiter (SL). SLs (also described as speed governors) are devices that interact with a truck engine to prevent trucks from exceeding a pre-programmed maximum speed. Many truck fleets use SLs to increase safety, prolong engine and brake life, and reduce tire wear.

The primary safety analysis conducted in this study focused on the potential reduction in truck crashes that could have been avoided and/or mitigated with an active SL installed. This was the first study to use actual truck crash data collected directly from truck fleets, representing a wide array of truck crashes (from minor crashes involving a scrape on a mirror to fatal crashes). Specifically, the study included data from 20 trucking fleets, approximately 138,000 trucks, and analyzed more than 15,000 crashes. In addition, data were collected over a three-year period (2007-09).

Key findings from this study are:

  • The various analyses conducted used data from more than 150,000 trucks that were involved in more than 28,000 crashes.
  • Results from multiple analyses indicated a safety benefit for trucks equipped with an active SL.
  • The positive findings in this study were consistent with the bulk of the literature on this topic indicating significant safety benefits associated with speed reduction which can be achieved through the implementation of SLs. Domain research on the potential downside of speed deviations among vehicles that could occur due to the interaction of SL equipped vehicles and those without SLs seems to be far outweighed by the significant safety benefits associated with a reduction in absolute speed afforded by SLs.

The study stated that complaints from critics of this technology were not substantiated by the data.

“Domain research on the potential downside of speed deviations among vehicles that could occur due to the interaction of [speed limiter]-equipped vehicles and those without [speed limiters] seems to be far outweighed by the significant safety benefits associated with a reduction in absolute speed afforded by [speed limiters],” the study said.

“Slowing down traffic is the most important step toward improving highway safety,” Graves said. For this reason, ATA’s policy calls for a national 65 mph speed limit for all vehicles, and ATA’s safety agenda calls for a speed limiter mandate. “The Department of Transportation should be commended for sponsoring this comprehensive field study and, in addition to using its findings, it should be a model for how all safety regulations are researched and supported. We hope in the future DOT will have the political will to recognize that speed is the single greatest contributor to highway crashes and prioritize its regulatory initiatives accordingly.”

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