How Fast is Too Fast? Federal Agencies Propose Speed Limiter Rule for Heavy Vehicles


By: Wesley C. Jackson
Federal regulators have proposed that heavy commercial vehicles be equipped with speed-limiting devices to cap the vehicles’ speed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed the new rule on August 26, 2016.
The proposed rule would require that new commercial vehicles weighing over 26,000 pounds be equipped with the limiting device. The agencies have not yet selected a specific speed limit, but have analyzed the benefits of setting the maximum speed at 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour. While the proposal in its current form would only apply to new vehicles, the agencies are also considering whether to require all commercial trucks on the road to be retrofitted with a limiting device.
The rule could potentially give rise to new claims against carriers, ranging from negligence per se for failing to install an approved limiter to punitive damages for willfully disengaging a limiter. And even if the rule does not require carriers to retrofit their fleets, jurors may begin to see limiters as an industry safety standard as they become more prevalent. It is difficult to forecast exactly how the new rule will effect trucking litigation, but carriers should nevertheless expect some changes on the horizon should the proposed rule become final. The full proposal is available here.