Obama Administration Wants Speed Limiters on Big Trucks and Buses

New proposal would restrict heavy-duty vehicles to speeds below 70 miles per hour.

obama trucks buses speed limit
Beatrice Murch / Flickr

Better check those air brakes. On Friday, the Obama administration proposed a measure to limit the top speeds of large trucks and buses.

The new rule, suggested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, proposes limiting road-going vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds to a top speed of either 60, 65, or 68 miles per hour. The agencies say they will consider alternatives to these speeds, however, based on public comment.

The size category in question covers semi-trucks, garbage trucks, and dump trucks, among many other types of rig, as well as a large chunk of the nation’s bus fleet. Under the proposal, only new trucks and buses would be equipped with the speed limiters, with the vehicle operators being responsible for setting the devices at or below the maximum speed.

The U.S. Department of Transportation suggests the move could save more than $1 billion in fuel costs every year, on top of the safety benefits to cutting down on the kinetic energy of these road-going goliaths.

“This is basic physics,” NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement. “Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.”

The idea of limiting the speeds of trucks and other large vehicles is not new. The European Union, Australia, Japan, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec have imposed legal restrictions on how fast trucks can travel. However, the U.S. trucking industry has resisted past efforts to cap the velocities of its vehicles, according to The Verge.

According to a report issued by the NHTSA, limiting the speeds of large vehicles could save between 27 and 498 lives every year on America’s roadways, with the number rising as the maximum speed falls. The agency suggests approximately 1,044 fatalities occurred in crashes where the speed of a large vehicle was a factor in the accident between 2004 and 2014.  

At least one group representing truckers has spoken out in favor of the measure. Sean McNally, spokesperson for the American Trucking Associations, told Trucks.com that speed is a factor in almost a quarter of all truck crashes and a third of all motor vehicle accidents overall. McNally’s group has previously urged regulators to limit all vehicles—including passenger cars—to 65 miles per hour, thus likely earning the ATA the ire of every person reading this sentence.