Lowering speeds for large trucks could improve road safety

Late last year a large coal truck collided with a passenger vehicle in Cheylan, West Virginia. As reported by WBOY-TV, the force of the collision resulted in two women having to be cut out of their vehicle before being taken to the hospital. In January 2014, an article in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph noted that the “jaws of life” were used to extract a passenger from his vehicle after a collision with a tractor-trailer.

With tractor-trailers weighing up to 80,000 pounds, a commercial vehicle accident is likely to cause occupants of passenger vehicles to sustain serious injury or death. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, thousands die from large truck crashes each year but less than 20 percent of those killed are truck occupants. The vast majority of the fatalities are to occupants of passenger vehicles, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

No accident can be more potentially serious than one involving a speeding tractor-trailer. According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, approximately 22 percent of large truck fatal crashes involving more than one vehicle are speed related. WSAZ-TV reported in December 2013 that a tractor-trailer plowed into another vehicle near the Institute entrance of Interstate 64 West in Kanawha County. One law enforcement officer said it was the most horrendous impact he had seen in years. One death occurred and traffic on Interstate 64 was backed up for miles. Because of the force of the impact, speeding was being investigated as being the primary culprit of the accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that many safety experts favor lower (differential) speed limits for large trucks since such vehicles require much longer distances than cars to stop. For example, a large truck traveling at 75 miles per hour takes approximately one-third longer to stop compared with one going 65 mph. Additionally, according to the Insurance Institute, speeding “exacerbates the size and weight differences between large trucks and passenger vehicles leading to more severe crashes.”

Push for speed limiters on trucks gains momentum

One suggestion which has gained momentum over the last several years is for speed limiters-sometimes called speed governors-to be used in trucks. Speed limiters would serve two purposes. First, they are intended to increase highway safety by reducing the number of truck and passenger vehicle collisions. Second, they would improve the fuel efficiency of commercial trucks.

There are increasing indications that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will, sooner or later, produce a rule requiring the use of speed limiters in heavy trucks. Indeed, the Commercial Carrier Journal believes that the rule could come this year. Preliminary indications are that speed limiters would become mandatory in trucks with gross weights exceeding 26,000 pounds.

Some in the trucking industry vigorously oppose speed limiters. For example, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes that their use would decrease safety since slower speeds for trucks would cause more congestion on the open highways. Moreover, it is said that there is no clear evidence that the use of speed limiters will improve highway safety.

Pursuing an action for personal injuries

Those who suffer injuries as a result of a commercial truck driver who was speeding should speak to a legal professional who handles motor vehicle accident cases. An experienced attorney can thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident. Afterwards, the attorney can provide advice and counsel as to how to best proceed under West Virginia law in order to pursue compensation for any injuries sustained.