Any motorist who has panicked at the sight of a fast-approaching tractor-trailer in the rearview mirror would likely support a proposal to limit the maximum speed of big trucks.
Crashes involving big trucks killed 100 people or more in New York each year from 2008 to 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In accidents involving big trucks and passenger vehicles,its the people in the smaller vehicles who are more likely to suffer debilitating injuries or be killed.
With an eye toward safer highways, the U.S. Department of Transportation is considering a proposal to slow down big trucks by requiring speed governors, according to a report in Claims Journal, an insurance industry publication. The idea is to reduce accidents by decreasing the trucks’ stopping distance.
The proposal would require rigs weighing more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with governors to control their top speed.
The American Trucking Association has suggested 68 mph as the maximum. Some trucking companies already outfit their rigs with speed limiters.
The safety of large trucks drew attention recently in the aftermath of a catastrophic crash that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed one of his friends, James “Jimmy Mack” McNair. A Wal-Mart truck slammed into the rear of Morgan’s limo bus in early June after it stopped for backed-up traffic on the highway.
The truck driver pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide and assault by auto in connection with the wreck. Law enforcement authorities said the truck driver hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours before the accident, though Wal-Mart contended he had not violated federal work-hours guidelines.
The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the truck was traveling 65 mph – 20 mph above the limit.
New York has some of the most heavily travelled roads in the nation. Interstate 84, for example, carries about 30,000 vehicles a day through Orange County and some 50,000 vehicles daily through Dutchess and Putnam counties, according to NYSDOT.
Interstate 95 from New York City to Washington is the most congested corridor in the nation, the Weather Channel says. Throgs Neck Bridge and Whitestone Bridge are bottleneck points between New York City and Connecticut or Long Island and ranked fourth most congested in the country.
Some truckers oppose speed governors, contending that putting the same limit on semis will create elephant races of sorts when big trucks try to pass each other on the highway.
The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association argues that it is best to keep traffic moving at about the same rate of speed. It contends speed differential is the most dangerous factor in big-truck crashes, not the velocity of vehicles.
For the proposal to take effect, it must be approved by the secretary of transportation and then clear the Office of Management and Budget in the White House. Proposed guidelines would be published in October, followed by 60 days of public comment.
There is a clear need to make it safer for motorists in passenger vehicles to share the highways with large trucks. After an accident involving a large truck, the trucking company will have lawyers representing them. You should too.