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Speed to Blame in Deadly Semi-Truck Wrecks Causes Proposal for Electronic Speed Limiters

Semi-truck wrecks are on the rise across the country.  Tire blowouts and high speeds are at least in part to blame.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated multiple tire blowouts and found high speeds and lack of maintenance were the main causes.  The NHTSA says no semi-truck tire is rated in excess of 81 miles per hour and most are rated at 75mph.  However, sixteen states have truck speed limits equal to or greater than 75mph.  Four states even top out at 80mph.   The American Trucking Association (ATA) says states raising speed limits above 65mph is a bad idea.  The ATA has been seeking regulations from the federal government to monitor speeds and place electronic limiters that would cap a trucker’s speed at 65mph. 

Ten miles per hour difference may not seem like a lot, but for semi-trucks it is.  It takes big rigs much longer to stop than passenger cars and trucks.  Big rigs obviously weigh a lot more than passenger vehicles and, therefore, take a lot longer to stop once the brakes are applied.  At 65mph a semi-truck will travel several hundred feet from the first brake application to reaching a final stop.  This distance varies depending on the type of truck, road conditions, type of brakes, and weight of the truck.  At least some accidents with semi-trucks are caused by the semi-truck and its inability to stop quickly enough. 

Semi-trucks weigh thousands of pounds, travel thousands of miles over the nation’s highways, and require drivers to drive long distances for long periods of time.  It is very important that truck drivers be rested and alert so they can observe dangers or cars stopping in front of them and apply the brakes in time to stop and avoid a wreck.  Often, truck drivers do not rest or sleep as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety BoardSleepy drivers also play a role in the large number of semi-truck wrecks each year. 

Truck and brake maintenance is also vital to a semi-truck’s ability to stop as quickly as possible and avoid wrecks.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also have lengthy requirements for trucking maintenance, tire maintenance, and brake maintenance.  Trucking companies are required to keep detailed maintenance logs and make certain periodic inspections.  As has sometimes been seen with driver time and rest logs, maintenance logs can be inaccurate and incorrect.  Switching to electronic logs across the industry may also help to alleviate these issues; however, it does not appear electronic logs will be mandated or required by the federal government. 

Between 2009 and 2013 trucks and buses were responsible for 14,000 fatal accidents.  We all know semi-truck drivers have a hard time seeing us as we drive along on the highway.  You also now know semi-trucks cannot stop as quickly as your car does, the driver may be sleepy, and the brakes might not have been checked for a while.  You can easily see why semi-truck wrecks are so frequent and deadly. 

We often travel Kentucky’s highways, interstates, and mountain parkways for our clients and their cases.  We encounter semi-trucks on each and every trip.  Knowing some of the cautions and dangers, we try to give them the road and move out of their way as quickly as possible. 

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