By Sandy Long
Speed limiters are back in the news once again as Washington scrambles to appear to be doing something, anything right in the minds of the general public. Once again, however, they are off the mark.
Recognizing that accidents involving trucks results in fatalities and incredible amounts of damage no matter who is at fault, the government and special interest groups are using flawed statistics and sensationalism to push forward speed limiters as another one size fits all fix to the problem. Sympathy of course goes out to anyone who looses a loved on in an accident of any kind, but blaming the accident involving a truck on only speed is simplistic at best.
A gentleman recently related on a radio debate that he and his wife lost a child to a speeding truck driver who hit the car while using cruise control. Some might have caught that fact; that the driver was using cruise control. There in lies a real problem that should be addressed before speed limiters; that of using cruise control when inappropriate.
The use of cruise control is taught by companies who are struggling trying to keep fuel costs down. Drivers are pushed through fuel bonuses and threat of being fired for not meeting company expectations of fuel economy and are told to use cruise control more often than not. Some companies actually put up the print outs from the ECM listing driver’s percentages of fuel economy and cruise control use to encourage peer pressure to comply.
A driver who is so concentrated on fuel economy and the related push to use cruise control to avoid punishment financially is going to focus on that problem instead of using cruise control only when appropriate. This focus leads the driver to use the cruise in heavy traffic, two lane roads, construction sites, when fatigued and bad weather/road conditions. This type of use of cruise control leads to going too fast for conditions and lead to mistakes in judgment.
Limiting the speed of the truck also creates situations where the driver will push the truck against the governor in states where the speed limits are above the governed speed. This not only lowers fuel economy, but also creates elephant races where two trucks of the same speed are trying to pass each other leading to back ups and frustrated drivers.
Creating speed differentials between cars and trucks has been identified for years by organizations all over the country where there are different speeds for cars and trucks. Having one vehicle going faster than any other vehicle can cause rear end crashes very easily if one driver is not paying close attention. Furthermore, it can lead to more lane changes and statistics show that changing lanes is one of the most common causes of wrecks.
A better use of government and special interest groups’ energy would be in promoting better training for both companies and drivers to make the highways safer. However, better training and stronger training regulations will not generate income for anyone and would take away the carrot dangled in front of drivers to keep the company bottom line healthy.