- Two federal agencies under the Department of Transportation on Friday proposed a new rule requiring trucks over 26,000 pounds be equipped with a speed limiting device set to a yet-to-be-defined maximum speed. The regulators claim the rule could provide a net societal benefit over $1 billion due to fewer trucking accidents and a greater fuel efficiency.
- The American Trucking Association stated its support for the agreement, adding the rule would even the playing field between its members who already govern the speed of their fleets and independent operators, whom they claim often drive faster to improve freight transport rates despite the safety hazards.
- The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association claims the rule may prove counter-productive by increasing speed differentials between truckers and other motorists, and limit drivers' ability to prevent crashes by speeding up when necessary.
The agency is considering setting the maximum speed at 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour pending comments from stakeholders. However, some supply and logistics managers worry setting such a speed cap would decrease total freight transport capacity since some states have truck speed limits that exceed 70 miles per hour and speed governors would make operators in these areas drive significantly under the speed limit.
Yet electronic control units (ECUs) have long been in use by large companies to improve safety, reliability and reduce crashes. In fact, most heavy trucks manufactured after 1999 already have ECUs in place, so the new regulation would only require activation or installment for a small portion of the trucking population. It would, however, standardize the use of the technology across the industry which could have a pricing implication for logistics companies.
The most recent analysis by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows fatal incidents are falling year-over-year, but crashes involving property damage rose by 31% from 2013 to 2014. The regulator reports the average cost of all large truck crashes is about $91,000, although fatal crashes on average costs $3.6 million.
In addition, 34% of all crashes — from the 346,000 property damage crashes to the 3,744 fatal incidents reported in 2014 — included a driver-related cause, mainly "speeding of any kind" and driver fatigue, which are the two most common causes of the incidents.
As a result, the Department of Transportation has been actively pushing for regulations to mitigate these two tendencies by proposing mandatory electronic logging devices to allow more active enforcement on hours of service laws, and now, mandatory ECUs in trucks to govern maximum speeds.