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Feds propose controversial changes to limit truck fatalities

From 2014 to 2015, the rate of truck fatalities increased 4.1 percent in the United States, according to a report recently published by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the report, there were over 4,000 fatalities in traffic accidents involving large trucks, which is the highest number of truck fatalities since 2008. Due to this rise in truck fatalities, there have been many debates and discussions about what measures the federal government should take to tackle this problem head-on. 

Is limiting truck speed an answer?

The NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently proposed new speed limits for heavy trucks in hopes of limiting truck fatalities. In the proposal, they claimed that speed limits of 60, 65, or even 68 mph would do much to curb the problem of truck fatalities. However, before officially making the change, the agencies hope to get input from the public. This speed limit would be a physical rather than legal one. The agency plans on putting this policy into effect by having speed-governing devices installed on all newly-manufactured heavy trucks. Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds would be considered a heavy truck.

NHTSA and FMCSA collaborated to form this proposal to broaden its applicability. NHTSA can require speed limiters for school buses, trucks, public buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles. The FMCSA can require speed limiters for commercial motor vehicles.

Both agencies claim that the use of speed limiters for heavy trucks would reduce the severity of traffic accidents involving these vehicles. Accordingly, the rate of truck fatalities and injuries would also be reduced.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx argued that the proposed rule would not only save lives, but it would also save about $1 billion in fuel costs every year. Therefore, this proposal would be a win for safety as well as the environment and energy conservation. Foxx notes that this rule is a major priority for the Department of Transportation. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind also agrees that having a speed limit for heavy vehicles would be beneficial for the environment and safety due to "basic physics."

Of course, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association will not allow this rule to go into effect without putting up a good fight. The OOIDA has long been opposed to the idea of speed limiters for heavy trucks. After the release of this proposed rule, the OOIDA claimed in a statement that this rule would be dangerous for truck drivers as well as passenger vehicle drivers. Undoubtedly, this proposed rule will stir up plenty of controversy and lead to many heated debates in the months ahead.

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