The Need for Speed

In the 1983 TV show The A-Team, actor George Peppard was famous for saying “I love it when a plan comes together!” Whether it’s gears meshing on a transmission, the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle laid in place or a surprise birthday party that truly surprises, when it all blends nicely, people are happy. The problem is when things don’t come together nicely, bad things happen. Sitting on the desk of Governor Quinn is Senate Bill 930, which was written to make sure truck and automobile traffic speeds are more closely sync’d. Read on to understand why this is important.

First, the ITEA is not endorsing higher speeds for trucks or unsafe truck driving. Common sense will tell you this: the heavier the vehicle is, more damage will be inflicted when they crash. The faster the heavier vehicle is, the more damage will be inflicted when they crash. The reality is when trucks crash, cars (and their occupants) lose. 

What this bill attempts to do is solve the opposite problem. When Governor Quinn signed into law Public Act 98-0511, he raised the maximum speed for cars to 70mph on interstate highways outside Cook and the collar counties. There was a glaring omission from the law though…trucks were still limited to 55mph.

Are trucks more safely operated at 55mph than 70mph? For sure, but the same can be said for cars. The issue at stake here is not the maximum speed, but the speed differential. Before the change, cars were limited to 65mph, a 10mph differential from trucks.  The proponents of this bill believe that a 15mph differential presents too great an opportunity for car versus truck crashes. 

If the Governor signs this bill, the speed differential will be reinstated to a 10mph difference by raising the maximum truck speed on interstates to 60mph from 55mph. Interestingly, as speed synchronization is being fought legislatively at the state level in Illinois, a similar war has been brewing for years at the federal level.

The issue nationwide is whether or not to mandate speed limiters, or governors, on all trucks. These electronic devices are built into the computer of the vehicle and restrict fuel intake in order to limit vehicle speed. Many carriers voluntarily use speed limiters already, many do not. The maximum velocity of trucks with speed limiters is up to management of the individual companies or owners.

The argument against speed limiters is the same as the argument for lesser speed differentials in Illinois…the closer all vehicles are in speed, the safer they are. 

There is no perfect solution and crashes are inevitable regardless of speed differentials, but there are some interesting questions posed by a potential nationwide mandate of speed limiters. It’s easy to argue the benefits of a speed limiters. Here are some arguments against speed limiters:

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In a day when fatigued truck driving is all the enforcement rage, many over-the-road drivers are paid per mile. The incentive to speed is great. Speed limiters do not correspond to speed limits though. Drivers may choose make up lost time (and money) by speeding in reduced speed areas like construction and school zones, or on local streets.

The going rate for a potential speed limiter mandate is 65mph. Many states, like Illinois, now have 70mph interstate speeds. Some are at 75mph. A few are at 80mph. Texas State Highway 130 is now at 85mph! Speed limiters are creating a greater speed differential in different areas of the country.

As interstate speed limits continue to increase, speed governed trucks may impede traffic. Have you ever been driving your car on a four-lane highway waiting for one semi-truck to pass another? There will always be some variance in governors, so one truck going 65mph is not exactly the same as another going 65mph. Imagine the time it will take for one truck to pass another in that situation if the passing driver cannot temporarily increase speed to pass, even if it is within the law.

The jury is still out on the benefit of speed limiters, but the studies have adequately shown that speed differentials between cars and trucks are hazardous. In the end, the goal should be safe trucks and safe drivers. Maybe more incentives to reward safe truck drivers is the answer. 



One thought on “The Need for Speed

  1. To gauge the problem of speed differentials between cars snd CMV look at the accident rates per million miles driven. (Raw accident numbers don’t show proper rate of accidents.) Compare states like Ohio who equalized truck and auto speeds a couple of years ago to states like California or Michigan which has a large speed differential.

    The province of Ontario mandated speed limiters on all CMV. One of the unexpected consequences has been huge traffic jams. Cmv can no longer make the minor adjustments to speed to keep traffic flowing. So called elephant races of speed limiter equipped truck with only slightly different speeds passing.

    The biggest reason for supporting uniform speeds is officer safety. On 4 lane roads a cmv attempting to move over for stopped emergency or maintenance vehicles has to forcr 70 mph car traffic to slow to 55. They don’t. They pass the cmv on the right at 70.

    Most cmv operators operate professionally. We need uniform speeds and the ability to adjust our speed for road and traffic conditions. Speed limiters do not increase safety.

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