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The U.S. Dept of Transport Proposes Speed Limiters for Trucks

We've all cruised along the Mass Turnpike and had trucks blow by us. The posted speed limit is of course 65 mph, but truckers, like their car-driving counterparts, are not above putting the pedal to the metal. This can come to the detriment of those around them: Perhaps you remember the two-truck accident in Charlton on August 12 that shut down the eastbound lanes of turnpike through morning rush hour?

Just the facts

With trucks, it's definitely a case of size matters. According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the average number of truck fatalities has declined after peaking in 1985 with 5,153. In 2014 (the most recent year with a final tally) it was 3,744. The number of people killed in other vehicles by trucks is 28,559. There is no indication of the number of accidents related to speeding, but there is no denying that people in smaller vehicles basically defenseless in crashes with large trucks, which weigh 20-30 times as much as cars and thus require up to twice the stopping distances.

A speed limiter?

On August 26, the federal government released a proposal to put speed limiting governors on trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds. A joint initiative between the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the general line of thinking behind this proposal is that there will be fewer accidents and fatalities if truck speeds are lowered.

The language of the proposal is vague at this point with proposed speeds listed at 60, 65 or 68 mph, which wouldn't deeply effect the general traffic flow of toll ways and highways in Massachusetts, but it could create occasion rolling roadblocks when one truck passes another.

Speeds for trucks vary from state to state, with six states and the District of Columbia setting speed limits for trucks at 55 or 60 mph. There are currently ten states that have at least some roads with 75 mph speed limits for trucks.

What people think

Reaction among national trucking advocacy groups has been mixed so far. The Owner-Operator Independent Owners Association (OOIDA) claims it would make highways more unsafe because cars and trucks wouldn't be going the same general speed. While longtime speed limiter advocates American Trucking Association fall on the other side of the issue, citing significant safety improvements, fuel efficiency and extended lifespan for equipment.

While the DOT is currently waiting 60 days as comments roll in before moving forward, the general public has already weighed in on this issue. According to a 2007 survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, 64 percent of drivers nationwide favor a speed governor requirement for large trucks. Over three-quarters of the respondents who favor speed governors also support a maximum speed below 70 mph.

If you or someone you know was hit by truck on the highway, toll way or elsewhere, chances is that there was severe damage to property, extensive medical bills or even wrongful death. The best advice is to talk to an attorney experienced in the field of car or truck accidents.

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