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Truck crashes drop 73% after speed-limiters made mandatory

Written by Steve Gursten Posted July 7th, 2017

Study shows speed-related truck crashes caused by at-fault truckers slowed dramatically after Ontario required all trucks to have speed-limiter devices

Truck crashes

The naysayers were wrong about speed-limiters preventing truck crashes.

Groups like Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) pedaled doom and gloom predictions about how requiring speed-limiters on trucks would create a dangerous speed differential with cars and other vehicles and, thus, cause more truck accidents.

As it turned out, however, not only did OOIDA’s truck crash predictions (thankfully) fail to come to pass, but the opposite proved to be true.

Speed-related truck crashes caused by at-fault truckers in Ontario dropped 73% after Ontario passed a law in 2009 requiring all trucks to have speed-limiters – i.e., devices’ purpose is to limit the top speed that a vehicle can travel.

This welcome news – which won’t be terribly shocking for anyone who knows anything about trucking safety – came via a study by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, as reported by HDT in its June 27, 2017, article, “Report: Truck Speed Limiters Improve Highway Safety in Ontario.”

Not only do the study’s findings about the safety benefits of speed-limiters being required in all trucks square with common sense: Slower trucks are, of course, safer trucks.

But the study is also consistent with my previous arguments that putting speed-limiters on trucks will prevent truck crashes and save lives:

“A requirement for the use of speed limiting devices on heavy trucks … has the potential to greatly reduce the number of truck accidents caused by speeding trucks and commercial motor vehicles that are driving at excessive speeds. Besides violating speed limit laws, speeding trucks also increases the risk of serious injury or death for any motor vehicle that a truck crashes into.”

Plus, the Ontario speed-limiter study is totally in line with the 2016 findings from the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA)’s proposed “speed limiting device” rule regarding the effect on fatalities and serious injuries if a speed-limiter law were enacted in the U.S. (pages 78-79):

  • “[W]e estimate that limiting heavy vehicles to 68 mph would save 27 to 96 lives annually, limiting heavy vehicles to 65 mph would save 63 to 214 lives annually, and limiting heavy vehicles to 60 mph would save 162 to 498 lives annually.”
  • Using speed-limiters to limit trucks to a “maximum set speed of 60 mph” “would prevent 179 to 551 serious injuries and 3,356 to 10,306 minor injuries …”
  • Using speed-limiters to limit trucks to a “maximum set speed of 65 mph” would prevent “70 to 236 serious injuries and 1,299 to 4,535 minor injuries …”
  • Using speed-limiters to limit trucks to a “maximum set speed of 68 mph” would prevent “30 to 106 serious injuries and 560 to 1,987 minor injuries …”

Hopefully, the results of this study will prompt U.S. lawmakers and safety regulators at the FMCSA, U.S. DOT and NHTSA to finally take action and make speed-limiters legally required for all truckers.

How does speed affect truck crashes?

I agree whole-heartedly with the FMCSA’s observations in its 2016 report:

“Studies examining the relationship between travel speed and crash severity have confirmed the common-sense conclusion that the severity of a crash increases with increased travel speed. Impact force during a crash is related to vehicle speed, and even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. As speed increases, so does the amount of kinetic energy a vehicle has. Because the kinetic energy equation has a velocity-squared term, the kinetic energy increase is exponential compared to the speed increase, so that even small increases in speed have large effects on kinetic energy.”

In a March 28, 2012, blog post entitled “FMCSA study finds ‘profound safety benefit’ to speed limiter use,” Fleet Owner reported that an FMCSA study concluded the following about truck drivers’ use of speed-limiters:

“‘Results from multiple analyses indicated a profound safety benefit for trucks equipped with an active speed limiter …’ The findings showed ‘strong positive benefits for speed governors.’ Results indicated that trucks equipped with speed limiters [SLs] had a ‘significantly lower SL-relevant crash rate (approximately 50%) compared to trucks without SLs …’”


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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.