As FMCSA searches for data to support its efforts to require speed limiters on heavy trucks, they may not have to look too far. In fact, just a glance in the rearview mirror may provide some compelling reasons to cap the maximum speed of trucks. Specifically, analyzing driving patterns during the pandemic may help policymakers connect the dots. A recent report by INRIX provides some insight.

INRIX is a provider of intelligent mobility solutions whose research arm leverages big data to analyze trends in the movement of people and goods around the world. In its recent report, COVID-19 Effect on Collisions on Interstates and Highways in the US, INRIX highlights some interesting speed-related trends that emerged during the pandemic.

Specifically, the report found that early in the pandemic, vehicle miles traveled and collisions decreased as highways became less congested. In fact, collisions dropped by 25% in 21 of the 25 metropolitan areas studied. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatalities decreased during this period as well. Unfortunately, the fatality rate, as measured by the number of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, increased 31% due to higher average speeds, suggesting the crashes that were occurring were more serious.

While this data is compelling, it may still leave FMCSA short of what’s needed. While many agree that intuitively higher speeds result in more crashes, the data indicate it may be more a function of severity, not frequency. This tripped up FMCSA the first time around on the speed limiter issue, which ultimately forced them to justify the costs of their proposal using fuel efficiency gains because they were unable to quantify a crash reduction. Will this time be any different? Perhaps a look at the similar mandates in Ontario and Europe could provide some compelling evidence.