Just more than a year ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) proposed rules requiring speed-limiters on heavy trucks. This would mandate speed governors on large commercial vehicles that would prevent tractor-trailer rigs from exceeding specified speed limits. The proposed regulations suggested potential limits of 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour.
According to an industry publication, the rule would require a speed-governing device on all new trucks. Each vehicle, as manufactured and sold, would be required to have a device that would set a speed that the vehicle could not exceed. Speeding has been cited as a major cause of commercial truck accidents, and these automatic speed limiters were proposed to protect all motorists on the roads from unnecessary harm due to speeding trucks.
Because the rule would be enacted and enforced by both the NHTSA and the FMSCA, it would apply more broadly than a rule set by one or the other agency alone. The proposed NHTSA rule would require speed limiters for all multi–purpose passenger vehicles, including vans, minivans, trucks, buses, and school buses, while the proposed FMCSA rule would require the limiters only for commercial motor vehicles.
These rules, however, have hit a roadblock since their proposal about a year ago.
The Current Administration Aims to Reduce Regulatory Burdens—Speed-Governor Rules Are in Limbo as a Result
The current administration’s determination to cut down on the number of federal regulations has resulted in a rejection of the proposed rules to limit tractor-trailer speeds—at least for now. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on July 20 published a “unified agenda” that left the speed-limiter rule off the near-term agenda for both the NHTSA and the FMCSA.
The OMB said that “By amending and eliminating regulations that are ineffective, duplicative, and obsolete, the administration can promote economic growth and innovation and protect individual liberty.” Unfortunately for the safety of motorists, the speed-limiter rule was deemed such a regulation.
Because the speed-limiter rules have been shelved, they no longer pose a threat to truckers or a potential benefit to passenger vehicle drivers involved in high-speed accidents with semi-trucks. Whether these regulations will move forward is not clear. However, the lack of legislation regarding speed limiters does not absolve the trucking industry of liability for trucks involved in accidents because they are driving too fast. Even in the absence of legislation, truck drivers who are going too fast can be held liable if the excess speed causes an accident.
Speeding is a regular violation for truck drivers for several reasons. First, the more deliveries drivers can make, the more profits they and their employers may earn in a specific period of time. Therefore, many drivers try to get to their destinations faster by speeding. In some situations, trucking companies may even encourage drivers to speed—or may look the other way when their employees take such risks—to maximize profits.
In addition, after a truck driver has made the final delivery before the law requires a driver to take some time off, the driver will most likely want to get home as soon as possible. This impatience can often lead to speeding and other aggressive driving behaviors. Of course, not every truck driver speeds, but the ones who do speed and cause crashes should be held fully accountable for any injuries that result.
To recover for their medical bills and other injury-related losses, injured accident victims must prove that the truck driver was responsible for causing the accident. Sometimes, such as when a truck had been witnessed barreling down the highway, passing other vehicles left and right, speed was obviously the cause of the collision. However, in other cases, it may require an investigation to determine whether the driver was speeding and if so, proof of speeding might be necessary.
The following examples of proof of speeding may be used in a truck accident claim:
- Citations: If law enforcement personnel are called to the scene or saw the accident, often they can determine whether they suspected the truck driver was traveling too fast at the time of the crash. In such situations, an officer may issue a citation for excessive speed and the truck driver will face speeding charges. If the driver pleads guilty, the resolution of that case can be used as evidence of negligence in a personal injury case.
- Black boxes: Large commercial vehicles are outfitted with data recording devices, similar to airplanes or trains. These are commonly referred to as “black boxes.” Such devices record data about the truck’s operation, such as speed of travel or whether the brakes were engaged at a certain time. This data can be analyzed to determine whether a driver was speeding when a crash occurred.
- Eyewitness accounts: If other motorists or pedestrians saw the truck clearly speeding, they may testify to corroborate your assertions regarding the speed of the truck. The more witnesses with consistent testimony, the more convincing it can be.
- Delivery receipts: Truck drivers should have receipts of recent deliveries they have made, including the time and location of the deliveries or pickups. Often, time and mileage traveled can indicate that a driver must have been speeding to reach the location of the accident so quickly.
An experienced attorney will know how to prove liability in a truck accident case and will evaluate the best method of doing so based on your individual circumstances.