According to research and advocacy groups, there are a number of things which can make trucks much safer. One of these items is the speed governor. Speed governors are on-board computers which limit the maximum speeds of trucks. Speed governors prevent speeding, and in some cases warn drivers when they exceed certain safe driving speeds. Many experts believe that speed governors are powerful tools in the trucking industry because these computers take the choice to speed out of the driver’s hands. The driver, in many cases, cannot easily speed with these computers onboard. If the driver does speed and is in an accident, the driver cannot plead ignorance, as the speed governor will warn the driver of excessive speeds. By keeping drivers to reasonable speeds, the speed governors ensure that drivers have adequate time to stop if they need to brake suddenly to avoid a collision.
The interesting thing about speed governors is that most trucks have them. In fact, all trucks made in the USA since 1992 have been equipped with speed governors. However, there is no legislation requiring truck drivers or truck companies to use these devices. In fact, many truck drivers and truck companies do not use these potentially life-saving devices. Under current legislation, trucks are legally allowed to drive at the same speeds as passenger vehicles, even though all experts agree that trucks cannot stop safely at highway speeds. Some experts and advocacy groups have tried to pass legislation requiring the use of speed governors or requiring different, lower, speed limits for trucks. Currently, no such legislation has passed.
Worse, some experts claim that the truck industry makes it profitable for truckers to exceed safe speed limits. Most truck drivers are paid by the load or by the mile. Truck drivers who travel more quickly, therefore, are more competitive than those who travel at safer speeds. Truck drivers who drive at slower speeds and therefore drive more safely are essentially financially punished with lower wages. However, even driving at regular highway speeds is very dangerous for drivers, since truck take three times the distance to come to a complete stop, when compared to passenger vehicles. Many experts believe that mandatory use of speed governors and new legislation regarding maximum truck speeds would reduce car accidents and pedestrian accidents associated with commercial trucks. Experts also point out that trucks that use speed governors to travel a safe speed are in fact also more profitable, since they incur smaller liability costs, spend less in fuel costs, and allow the truck to function longer without expensive maintenance or repairs.
In addition to speed governors, another tool that can help prevent truck accidents is the log book. All commercial truck drivers are required to keep an up-to-date log book, detailing hours driven as well as rests taken, to show that they are taking regulated breaks. However, some drivers take part in log book fraud, keeping a falsified log book which suggests that they take regular breaks when in fact these breaks are not taken.
One solution to log book fraud is the Electronic On-Board Recorder (EOBR). These devices automatically track vital statistics – such as hours driven, hours stopped, speed, location, and other details. EOBRs can help investigators after an accident and can help drivers keep track of their safe driving practices as well. EOBRs are also much harder to falsify than log books. Many drivers also support EOBRs because they require almost no paperwork. Currently, drivers driving trucks without EOBRs must fill out log books by hand and they are not compensated for this paperwork.