FMCSA to Require Speed Limiters on Heavy Trucks

On April 27, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a notice of intent saying it will require commercial motor vehicles to be equipped with speed limiters.

What is a Speed Limiter?

A speed limiter is an electronic device that restricts the top speed of a vehicle. While drivers are able to accelerate and decelerate as normal, once the vehicle hits a pre-set top the speed limiter will prevent the vehicle from going any faster.

Additionally, many speed limiters are also able to monitor driving behaviors in an effort to promote safer driving.

Why Does the FMCSA Want Trucks to Have Speed Limiters?

In their announcement, officials with the FMCSA stated the inclusion of speed limiters on commercial vehicles will offer significant safety benefits and reduce the risk of fatal collisions.

According to their notice, “the National Roadway Safety Strategy identified speed as a major factor in fatal crashes, and speed management as a primary tool to reduce serious injuries and fatalities.” The regulator went on to cite concerns about the number of commercial motor vehicle crashes and fatalities involving high speeds.

According to the FMCSA, nearly 900 fatal crashes occurred in areas with posted speed limits over 70 miles per hour in 2019 alone.

What Kinds of Vehicles Would be Subject to Speed Limiters?

If the final proposal follows the same language as when it was originally crafted in 2016, the regulation would apply to commercial vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds. However, the maximum speed at which a limiter could be set has not been specified.

All motor carriers over 26,000 pounds would have to have and maintain functional speed limiter devices for the service life of the vehicle.

Both the FMSCA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that vehicles with electronic engine control units typically already have speed limiting devices. These devices help to control the supply of fuel to the engine by monitoring an engine’s RPM and current speed.

The agencies suggest that in addition to saving lives, the new speed limiter requirement would also offer fuel and emissions savings.

When Does the Speed Limiter Law Go into Effect?

The FMCSA has not offered a final date by which commercial vehicles must have speed limiters.

Next steps would include the FMCSA publishing the notice of intent to the Federal Register. This would be followed by a 30-day period for public responses.

The American Trucking Association seemed to support the steps being taken, stating it was pleased to see the FMCSA pursuing “a constructive, data-driven approach to the issue of truck speed limiters.”

What Does This Mean for Truck Accident Victims?

Hopefully, speed limiters will mean we see fewer clients injured in trucking accidents or a reduction in serious injuries and deaths caused by truck crashes. Depending on the language of the final regulation, it could also provide victims of truck accidents another avenue through which to demonstrate negligence on behalf of a trucking company.

For example, if a trucking company fails to equip their fleet with speed limiters as required by the proposed regulation and an accident occurs, a person injured in that accident could point to the absence of a speed limiter as a contributing factor in their crash.

Because speed limiters would be the responsibility of the company that owns the truck, plaintiffs could seek fair compensation against the company for their negligence.

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