Understanding Speed Limiters on Trucks

Speed Limiters for Commercial Motor Vehicles and Trucks

In 2020, there were approximately 415,000 large truck crashes in the U.S. About 4000 of those crashes led to at least one death, and 101,000 of them led to injuries of varying degrees. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), many such accidents are caused by overspeeding and can be avoided if the driving speed of truck drivers is reduced.

To minimize such incidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FMCSA released a notice in 2022, announcing its plans to impose speed limitations on certain commercial motor vehicles and trucks engaged in interstate commerce and mandate the use of speed limiters in such vehicles.

Speed limiters are crucial safety devices installed in vehicles to prevent them from exceeding specific speed limits. While speed-limiting devices are a standard requirement for vehicles in Europe, they are less common in the United States. However, if the FMCSA rule sees the light of day, these devices would become compulsory for commercial trucks.

As a truck driver, it is important that you are aware of how speed limiters work, their possible benefits, and the possible consequences of not complying with the rule when it becomes operational. Below, we explain these details to keep you informed about this evolving issue. Please read on to learn more.

How Do Speed Limiters Work?

Speed limiters, also called speed governors, are electronic control systems that restrict the maximum speed at which commercial trucks or vehicles in which they are installed can operate.  

They come with a sensor that monitors the vehicle’s current speed. Once a driver reaches the predetermined maximum speed, the sensor sends a message to the vehicle’s computer system. The computer restricts the vehicle’s fuel and airflow so that the driver cannot exceed the approved limit even if they continue accelerating. 

Types of Speed Limiters

Adjustable Speed Limiters

Adjustable speed limiters are the most common type of speed limiters and are standard in most vehicles. For such devices, the speed limit can be adjusted based on the preferences of the driver or trucking company (with the help of a technician) or in accordance with any regulation made for that purpose.

If the regulations or the vehicle driver/owner’s needs change, the speed limiter can be adjusted to reflect the change.

Intelligent Speed Limiters

Intelligent speed limiters or intelligent speed assistant systems use GPS and road sign recognition to detect speed limit signs along a driver’s route.

If a driver exceeds the posted speed limits for a particular route,the intelligent speed assistance technology will alert the driver, automatically reducing engine power to bring the vehicle back within the limit.

Possible Benefits of Speed Limiters

Even though speed limiters may restrict your driving speed, their compulsory usage could offer some potential benefits, including the following;

  • Speed limiters can reduce the risk of accidents caused by excessive speed and promote safer driving practices among truck drivers.
  • Speed limiters can reduce the severity of car crashes, potentially preventing catastrophic injuries.
  • Many people believe that the truck driver is at fault whenever a truck accident occurs and accuse them of engaging in harmful driving practices, including overspeeding. This could affect the driver’s ability to claim compensation for injuries sustained due to such accidents. An installed and working speed limiter can help truck drivers disprove such allegations.

When Will the FMCSA Rule on Speed Limiters Become Operational?

When the FMCSA issued the notice of its intention to make speed limiters mandatory for trucks, it also called for public contributions on the issue.

There have been divergent opinions on the rule. Some stakeholders support its introduction. Those who do not have questioned the necessity of the rule, the specific speed limit truck drivers would be required to maintain under the rule, and the likelihood that a low mandatory speed limit would lead to involuntary truck convoys, which could clog the highways all over the country.

Currently, there are two bills before the House of Representatives on both sides of the divide. The Deregulating Restrictions on Interstate Vehicles and Eighteen-Wheelers (DRIVE) Bill seeks to restrict the FMCSA from mandating the use of speed limiters in trucks. On the other hand, there is the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Bill, which aims to mandate the installation and use of speed-limiting technologies in commercial motor vehicles and to require those vehicles to operate at a top speed of 65-70 miles per hour. 

These bills represent the conflicting interests of stakeholders, and the FMCSA may need to resolve all the arguments for and against them before coming up with a final rule. As such, it may be difficult to estimate when the rule would be initiated.

If the rule is eventually made, and you have concerns about your rights and obligations, you can contact an attorney for help. They can help you understand your obligations in the new legal regime.

How Speed Limiters On Trucks Operate

 

Speed limiters, often integrated into the engine control unit (ECU) of a truck, restrict the maximum speed a vehicle can reach. This device operates by monitoring the speed through sensors and, upon reaching a pre-set limit, reducing the power supplied to the engine.

While the driver can accelerate normally up to the limit, any attempt to exceed it results in an automatic reduction in fuel supply, effectively capping the speed. This mechanism ensures compliance with speed regulations without requiring manual input from the driver, thereby enhancing road safety.

 

Advantages and Drawbacks of Speed Limiters

 

The implementation of speed limiters comes with several advantages. Primarily, they reduce high-speed collisions, which are often severe and fatal. By capping the maximum speed, trucks are less likely to be involved in crashes, promoting a safer driving environment. Furthermore, speed limiters can contribute to reduced fuel consumption and lower emissions, aligning with environmental sustainability goals.

However, there are also notable drawbacks. Speed limiters may lead to increased traffic congestion, especially on highways where trucks cannot keep up with the flow of faster vehicles. Additionally, in situations where acceleration might be necessary to avoid accidents, such as overtaking, the restriction can pose a safety risk. Critics also argue that uniform speed limits may not be appropriate for all road conditions, potentially leading to hazardous interactions with other vehicles not equipped with such devices.

Will There Be Any Penalties for Non-Compliance After the Rule Is Made?

If the rule is initiated, it would most likely be treated like other FMCSA regulations. That means non-compliance may lead to the usual penalties for breaches of those regulations, including loss of operating license for the trucking company, suspension or revocation of the truck driver’s commercial driving license, and payment of fines.

If you are ever involved in a truck accident, whether or not your truck complies with the standards set under the rule could impact your ability to claim compensation for any injuries or damage sustained. 

As such, non-compliance with the rule when it is made could prove costly. In the meantime, endeavor to follow all other driving laws and regulations and drive within local speed limits to keep you and other road users safe.

How Our Team at Hurt Trucker Attorneys Can Help You

The commercial trucking industry in the U.S. is heavily regulated, and the rules are constantly changing. It may not be easy to keep track of all the requirements because of the volume of laws you’ll need to be aware of. And yet, you must be aware of them because non-compliance could spell danger for you and other road users and could lead to severe penalties. That’s where we come in.

At Hurt Trucker Attorneys, Truckers like you are our priority. Our experienced attorneys are here to offer comprehensive guidance and clarity on the ever-changing regulations applicable to the industry.

We also help truckers injured in the line of duty navigate the process of claiming compensation for their injuries, ensure their rights are protected, and that they get the settlement they deserve.

Contact us today if you have questions about any legal changes in the industry or if you need help with your compensation claim after an injury. Let us provide you with the quality legal representation you deserve.