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U.S. Proposes Placing Device on Semi-Trucks to Cap Their Speed

The federal government is proposing capping speeds for all vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds, which would include semi-trucks, buses, and other large vehicles.  The National highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposes physically preventing drivers from exceeding a certain speed by requiring an electronic capping device be placed on every newly made U.S. vehicle in excess of 26,000 pounds.  The proposal will not force older vehicles to add the technology, but regulators are still considering it.  The capped speed has not yet been determined, but the government is considering 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour. 

The government says capping speeds for new large vehicles will reduce the 1,115 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks each year and will save $1 billion in fuel costs.  Many truckers say the change could lead to dangerous scenarios where they are traveling at much lower speeds than everyone else.  At 60 miles per hour, for example, some truck drivers say the difference is too great with cars driving at 75mph or more, creating a safety hazard.  The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the cap because differentials in speed interactions between vehicles increase the likelihood of crashes. 

This regulation has been sought since 2006 when the nonprofit group Roadsafe America issues its first petition.  The nonprofit was later joined by the American Trucking Associations, the nation’s largest trucking industry group.  Though Roadsafe America sought devices on all large vehicles to cap speeds, the proposal at this point only contains requirements the devices be placed on newly manufactured vehicles.  The government believes requiring older vehicles be retrofitted could be too costly, but is seeking additional information on the issue.  No heavy vehicle made before 1990 has the capacity to add the technology. 

Last year the Associated Press conducted an investigation that found fourteen states have speed limits for big trucks that are equal to or higher than their tires were designed to handle.  Most truck tires are not designed to go faster than 75mph and going faster can cause tires to fail and blow out.  Of the fourteen states, give have limits of 80mph or more, allowing trucks to exceeds the capability of their tires.  

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