Learn How Possible Speed-Limiter Regulations Could Affect Your Next Used-Truck Purchase

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Learn How Possible Speed-Limiter Regulations Could Affect Your Next Used-Truck Purchase

10 October 2016
Automotive, Articles

The next time you're in the market for a used semi-truck, there's a good chance you could end up with one that has a speed limiter built into it. A recent joint proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) aims to limit the maximum top speed of all newly manufactured trucks to speeds between 60 and 68 mph.

Despite this proposal targeting new semi-trucks, it's bound to have an effect on the used market sooner or later. The following takes a look at how this new regulation could impact the used-truck market if it comes into force.

How Speed Limiters Work

On most modern semi-trucks, speed limiters receive information from various sensors that monitor the vehicle's current road speed and engine RPM (revolutions per minute). Once the vehicle reaches the pre-determined top speed, the speed limiter cuts the amount of fuel delivered to the engine, preventing the truck from surpassing its set speed limit.

Some speed-limiting devices are GPS based, with the limiter monitoring the truck's speed relative to its current GPS signal. GPS-based speed limiters are often used in conjunction with vehicle fleet tracking and management software, with the top speeds of each fleet vehicle managed by the dispatcher or fleet manager. There are also mechanical speed limiters that physically restrict the engine's fuel and air supply upon reaching governed speeds, although these limiters are usually found on older trucks.

Why the Need for Speed Limiters?

Both the FMCSA and NHTSA are aiming to reduce the number of truck-involved fatalities that occur on U.S. roads annually. Both agencies estimate that capping semi-truck top speeds at 68 mph could result in an additional 27 to 96 lives saved each year. Lowering the top speed to 65 could save up to 214 lives annually, while a further reduction to just 60 mph could result in up to 498 lives saved each year.

Improving semi-truck fuel economy is another motivating factor behind the recent push for mandatory speed limiters in new trucks. Both agencies estimate that governing semi-trucks to 60 mph could bring fuel and greenhouse gas reductions totaling $848 million per year. Overall, the FMCSA expects truckers to save at least $1.1 billion in fuel costs with the newly mandated speed limiters installed.

How the Legislation Could Impact Your Used-Truck Purchase

Like airbags and stability control for passenger cars, technologies that are mandated by government regulation are sure to trickle down to the used market. Even today, there's a good chance that you could run into a semi-truck that's already equipped with a speed limiter. Many modern trucks already include speed-limiting capabilities baked into the ECU, although accessing these features may require the use of additional management software. Many semi-trucks that used to be part of national trucking fleets also have speed-limiting technology, whether it's through a mechanical unit or an ECU setting.

In the U.S., there aren't any laws that make the actual use of speed limiters mandatory among truckers. The federal proposal itself focuses on making manufacturers include active speed limiters in newly manufactured semi-trucks. According to the FMCSA press release, however, motor carriers will still be responsible for maintaining the speed limiters and adhering to the new designated speed limits for semi-trucks. It remains to be seen whether there'll be penalties for disabling or deactivating these speed limiters once the proposal is turned into law.

In the meantime, there's nothing stopping truckers from disabling the speed limiters that come with their used-truck purchases. In many cases, defeating speed-limiting features only takes a brief change of the ECU settings or a bypass of mechanical components. However, there could be penalties applied to those who tamper with speed limiters if the proposal is enacted.  

Talk to a company like Arrow Truck Sales for more information.