Truck Safety Coalition makes another push for AEBs, speed limiters

October 31, 2023

Mark Schremmer


The Truck Safety Coalition is calling for federal agencies to take “immediate action” toward mandating automatic emergency braking systems and speed limiters.

Citing statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that report there were more than 5,600 fatalities involving large trucks in 2021, the coalition advocated for multiple safety reforms.

“People can and should expect their government to keep them safe from the carnage large trucks cause on our roads and highways,” Truck Safety Coalition Executive Director Zach Cahalan said in a news release. “It is time for Congress and (the Department of Transportation) to fulfill this expectation without reservation.”

According to the coalition, truck crash deaths have increased by 71% since 2009, and the surge indicates a need for more regulation in the industry.

Opponents, however, note that trucking regulations also have increased dramatically in that time. That includes the electronic logging mandate, which began full enforcement in 2018. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents small-business truckers, said the ELD mandate is one example of a costly regulation that has yielded no safety benefits.

“Our members have vigorously opposed the ELD mandate since its inception,” OOIDA wrote to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last year. “There was never sufficient research indicating the mandate would improve highway safety, and the agency still lacks data demonstrating any positive safety results since its full implementation.”

Automatic emergency braking systems

NHTSA and FMCSA are scheduled to issue a final rule in April that would mandate automatic emergency braking systems on heavy trucks.

Supporters say the mandate would eventually prevent more than 19,000 crashes and 150 deaths each year.

Opponents point to false activations as evidence the technology is not ready to be required. Several truck drivers who filed comments on the braking proposal cited instances of false activations due to shadows and guardrails.

Specifically, truck driver Carrie Moore told the agencies about a time when a false braking incident led to a near crash when she was driving on an icy road in Michigan.

NHTSA launched an investigation into false automatic braking earlier this year.

Speed limiters

FMCSA is scheduled to unveil a proposal to mandate speed limiters on most commercial motor vehicles in December.

Proponents of a mandate say speeding is a key contributor to crashes. However, speed limits vary dramatically on highways throughout the United States, with some areas allowing speeds as fast as 85 mph. Opponents of a mandate argue that forcing trucks to go 20 mph – or more – below the speed limit would worsen driving conditions.

FMCSA’s advance notice for speed limiters that was released last year prompted more than 15,000 comments. The majority of the feedback came from truck drivers who are opposed to the requirement.

“I oppose the speed limiter mandate,” Thad Thurlow wrote. “Speed differentials create unsafe conditions. Some states have already come to that conclusion and abolished their speed differentials. Limiting all trucks to the same speed will create more congestion as trucks pass each other and cars have to move around them. Congestion leads to more frustration and drivers making riskier decisions to get through traffic.”

The DRIVE Act, which has been introduced in the House and Senate, would stop FMCSA from moving forward with a speed limiter rule. LL