Last updated October 29, 2022
Truck accidents are often more serious than other motor vehicle accidents, because of the size, weight, and momentum of a large commercial truck. In addition to South Carolina traffic laws, the federal government has laws and regulations in place to help protect against large truck accidents.
Most truck accidents–and other motor vehicle accidents–occur because a driver was not following the law and exercising adequate care on the road. One of the most common factors contributing to truck accidents is excessive speed. While drivers of all types of vehicles sometimes speed, speeding is a particular problem among commercial truck drivers because they are often under pressure to make delivery deadlines, or to reach a destination before hours-in-service regulations force them to take a break.
When a truck driver disregards safety law or is otherwise negligent on the road, they may be responsible for injuries and property damage they cause. In some cases, the trucking company or another party may also be responsible. Our Charleston truck accident attorneys help people in South Carolina get the compensation they need in truck accident cases, including personal injury cases, wrongful death cases, product liability cases, and other claims against possible responsible parties.
Speeding Trucks are Dangerous
Commercial vehicles are heavier and bigger than small passenger vehicles. They can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when loaded with cargo. This weight makes it much harder to suddenly slow down than it would be in a lighter vehicle. If the truck is speeding and traffic comes to a stop or there is a hazard in the road, the truck driver may not be able to stop in time.
In bad weather, the chances of serious injury or a fatal accident are even higher. Drivers must adjust their speed based on weather and traffic conditions, even if it means adjusting to speeds lower than required limits on that particular road or highway.
Speeding is a key contributor to loss of control of vehicles or all sizes, and in heavy commercial trucks it is harder to stop or regain control. Truck drivers increase the chances of accidents when they speed in combination with other negligent behaviors such as:
- Distracted driving
- Inappropriate lane changes
- Fatigued driving
- Drunk driving
- Overweight trucks
- Poor vehicle maintenance
The risk of commercial truck accidents affects everyone on the road, not just those traveling in large trucks. In fact, most of those who die in truck accidents in South Carolina and around the country were not truck drivers or passengers in a truck. Instead, those in other vehicles are most at risk.
What about Speed Limiters? Will They Help?
Most experts, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) agree that speed limiters will make truckers and others who share the roads with them safer. But, not everyone agrees. In June, the FMCSA extended the comment period on its proposed rules for speed limiters on commercial vehicles after receiving more than 15,000 comments in the initial 30-day period.
What is a Speed Limiter?
A speed limiter is a device that caps the top speed for a vehicle. You may also hear this device called a “governor.” In simple terms, the speed limiter uses sensors to determine how fast the vehicle is traveling. Then, the vehicle automatically alters variables such as the flow of air and fuel to ensure that the truck or other vehicle doesn’t exceed the top permissible speed.
According to the FMCSA, “speeding of any kind” is the most common driver-related factor in fatal truck accidents.
So, it’s no surprise that the federal government has long been working toward reducing the speed of large trucks on the road. One key proposal involves requiring speed limiters on large commercial vehicles. In 2016, proposed rulemaking on the issue stalled, but the process is moving forward again.
Benefits of Speed Limiters
The primary motivation for requiring speed limiters is safety, but it’s not the only one. Another benefit often cited is that slower and more consistent speeds would improve fuel efficiency. That’s more significant than it might sound, considering that the average 18-wheeler uses more than 20,000 gallons of fuel each year–more than 40 times as many as the average passenger vehicle. With about two million commercial trucks on the road, that fuel comes at a significant environmental cost.
Some industry organizations support the measure, at least as a general concept. For instance, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports a maximum speed of 70 mph for trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, and 65 mph for those without. No specific limit has yet been determined, but none of the possibilities discussed during the earlier round of rulemaking was as high as 70 mph.
Proponents of limiters, and of lower top speeds, say they’ll save lives because the faster a truck is traveling, the longer it will take to stop the vehicle in an emergency. Higher speeds can also make it more difficult to safely maneuver the vehicle. The Truck Safety Coalition says “ this rule will prevent hundreds of fatalities and injuries resulting from speed-related truck crashes. This rule is common sense and something the motoring public needs, wants, and deserves.”
Many other countries already have such regulations, including those in the European Union, Japan, Australia, and some Canadian provinces. But, not everyone agrees that using speed limiters will make the roads safer.
The Argument Against Speed Limiters
Some truckers argue that speed limiters won’t make the roads safer–in fact, they say making it impossible for a truck to exceed a certain speed could make driving more dangerous. For example, some argue that:
- Traffic is generally safer when all vehicles are traveling at a consistent speed. If trucks are forced to travel at a slower rate than cars around them, the inconsistent speeds will increase some crash risks.
- Trucks may be unable to reach safe passing speeds, particularly on two-lane roads.
- Operators of smaller vehicles will likely become frustrated and impatient traveling behind a relatively slow-moving truck, causing them to make risky moves to maneuver around trucks at high speeds.
However, several states already have lower speed limits for large trucks, and some even differentiate between standard semi-trucks and those carrying hazardous materials.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact An Experienced Charleston Trucking Accident Lawyer
At The Hartman Law Firm, LLC, we understand how complicated trucking accident cases can be. Our experienced truck accident attorneys know how to manage the unique challenges of a commercial truck crash involving out-of-state parties. Contact our offices today to discuss your options.