The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking comment on a proposal to require speed limiters on heavy-duty commercial vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds GVWR, including school buses.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the proposed rule could save between 27 and 498 lives a year, depending on the speed limit that is set. NHTSA has yet to specify what that optimal number should be, though it added that it has considered the benefits and costs of 60, 65 and 68 mph.
NHTSA said speed limiting devices could also save an estimated $1.1 billion in fuel costs and millions of gallons of fuel, annually.
“This is basic physics,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.”
Published speed limits for school buses differ by state, but generally range between 40 and 55 mph, depending upon whether the travel is on a road or highway. For years, many school buses have also been equipped with governors to regulate the maximum speed a driver could attain.
NHTSA said it also wants to “harmonize” the proposal with “pertinent” maximum speed regulations promulgated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is also proposing a “complementary” regulation that would include school buses operating in interstate commerce. FMCSA is requesting comments on the potential cost of enforcing the new regulations, as well as the training and new enforcement tools that may be needed.
The National School Transportation Association said it needs to review the 118-page proposal before it can comment. The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services said it will likely comment via its School Bus Manufacturers Technical Council.