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In September of 2016, a regulation was proposed by U.S. officials that would require some type of speed-limiting device on all tractor-trailer rigs. While many large motor carriers already use speed limiters in an effort to improve safety and fuel economy, advocates for the measure believe that 100 percent compliance across the industry could make a significant difference.The mandate would provide an added measure of safety to those traveling our highways—especially in the wake of state legislations continually setting higher and higher speed limits across the country over the past 25 years (the national 55 mph speed limit was repealed in 1995). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that their research shows that 33,000 deaths between 1993 and 2013 can be attributed to higher speed limits, yet little has been done to correct the issue.


Proponents Argue that Requiring Speed Limiters Would Save Lives

Currently, 41 states have maximum speed limits of 70 mph or greater, despite the fact that larger and heavier vehicles require more time to perform safety maneuvers and have a much higher potential to do more damage at higher speeds. According to Adrian Lund, the of the IIHS, a semi-truck has 50 percent more energy that must be managed in an emergency compared to the same situation if it were traveling 15 mph slower. Consider this with the fact that several states already have or are considering a relaxed speed limit of 80 mph and many agree that we’re resting a huge responsibility on the shoulders of individual truck drivers. All it takes is one bad decision based on a delivery deadline or some other workplace pressure, and a human life becomes another highway statistic.


Some Feel Such a Mandate Would Limit More than Speed

Yet, the measure does have its detractors. James C. Walker, director of the nonprofit National Motorists Association Foundation (NMAF), points out that such a regulation would increase the frequency and variation of speed conflicts between large trucks and passenger vehicles. Another issue pointed out by Mr. Walker is the inability for trucks to maneuver around each other when traveling at or near their limited speed. For example, if a truck is in the right lane of traffic traveling at 64 mph and another truck wants to pass, they would only be able to accelerate 1 mph faster than the slower truck, possibly creating a “rolling roadblock” and tying up passenger vehicle traffic.


The Wheels of Government Aren’t Turning at All

A speed limiter mandate hasn’t had much support from the federal government, either. Within days of being sworn into office, President Trump issued a memorandum to all federal agencies that enacted a freeze on any new regulations until a review was performed by the president himself. Now, six months into his first term, Trump has done little to get the regulatory process rolling again. The delays have not only hurt commercial transport, but also affected other areas such as the airline and auto industries. Since this administration has taken office, no pending regulations have been finalized—a fact that is punctuated by the fact that the Department of Transportation (DOT) hasn’t updated its monthly DOT rulemaking report since December 2016.


Moving Forward

While the future of a speed limiter mandate for large vehicles is unclear at this point, the need for such a regulation still exists. Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx argued during the regulation’s proposal that such a move would not only save lives but also more than $1 billion in annual fuel costs. Ultimately, he said, this would be “a win for safety, energy conservation and our environment.”

Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Associates by visiting their website,


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