The idea of installing speed-limiting devices on 18-wheelers and other heavy trucks has been discussed for many years, but the official proposal to make it happen has stagnated as a result of foot-dragging by government regulators. Fortunately, it appears we are much closer to seeing this life-saving technology put to use on our highways in the near future following the Senate Appropriations Committee’s recent passage of a Department of Transportation funding bill for 2017.
Speed limiters, also called “governors,” can be installed in any vehicle to prevent a driver from going faster than a prescribed speed. According to a 2014 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, speed is one of the top three factors for motor vehicle crashes, along with fatigue and drinking alcohol. While many truckers have resisted the move to restrict their ability to go as fast as their tractor-trailers are capable, the great majority of safety experts agree that limiting trucks’ speed will save lives and prevent countless highway injuries.
The continuing problem with mandating speed limiters is getting a rule drafted and passed that the DOT can implement and enforce. The DOT repeatedly has promised it will submit a proposed rule for at least the past two years, but no proposal has emerged. Some blame the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which has failed to approve a similar rule submitted by the DOT in 2014. But with the passage of the 2017 funding bill, the Senate has set a deadline for the new rule to be submitted, although everyone believes the deadline will be pushed back as the bill makes it way to the House of Representatives. Regardless, we are much closer today than we have been in recent years.
If the White House and DOT can get their act together and the House of Representatives does not slow down the process, then we could see speed limiters on semis and other big rigs as soon as 2018. While two years is a long time to wait for something that nearly everyone agrees will improve highway safety significantly, the forthcoming benefits of speed limiters hopefully will cause us all to ask, “What took so long?