Answering questions regarding the safest speed for commercial trucks to travel on highways involves more than simply knowing the posted speed limit. Speed limits are designed for the best of weather, road, and visibility conditions. The law stipulates that vehicles should travel at a speed that is reasonably safe for the conditions, even if that speed is less than the posted limit.
And tractor-trailer drivers need to account for all relevant conditions even more than most vehicles’ drivers. Large commercial trucks are roughly 20 – 30 times the size of passenger vehicles by weight, and are prone to a slew of dangers smaller cars don’t need to worry about. Accidents too often occur when large trucks travel too fast for the conditions. For passenger vehicle drivers who share the road with 18-wheelers, it’s important to know what to do in case of a truck accident. Truck drivers, for their part, need to be aware of all the legal speed limits in the states they travel, and—even more importantly—when to slow down.
Legal Speed Limits in Kentucky
In Kentucky, the highest-speed highways restrict all drivers from travelling over 70 miles per hour. No matter what type of road they are traveling, truck drivers have an obligation to respect the posted speed limits. This is especially important considering the size and weight of the vehicle, and the fact that truckers are often non-local residents hired by companies with the expectation that safe practices will be followed and all local traffic rules will be observed. The speed limits in Kentucky are as follows:
- 15 mph: off-street parking facilities
- 25 mph: school zones with yellow lights or as posted, and some areas within city limits as posted
- 35 mph: business and residential districts
- 55 mph: all other highways, including two- and four-lane divided roads
- 65 mph: urban interstates
- 70 mph: interstates and rural freeways
When a Truck Needs to Slow Down
A tractor-trailer should never be travelling over the posted speed limit on a highway or any road. And in many cases, it is best and safest for the trucker to drive under the legal limit. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) warns commercial vehicle operators to adjust speeds to safely match weather, road, visibility, traffic, and other conditions. For example, it is recommended that truckers reduce speeds by one-third on wet roads and by half or more on snowy roads.
Travelling too much slower than the limit under normal conditions poses its own dangers, but a reduction in speed is necessary for truck drivers when taking the following factors and conditions—in addition to the truck’s size and weight—into consideration:
- Weather (especially rain, snow, fog, winds, and ice)
- Traffic conditions
- Construction zones
- Conditions of low visibility
- Uneven roads or gravel roads
- Road conditions and road hazards, including debris
- Vehicle mechanical issues or failure
- Areas of high pedestrian activity
- On and off-highway exits ramps
- Curves, road bends, and sharp turns
- Hills and inclines
- Unfamiliar roads
The FMCSA analyzed commercial truck speed-involved crashes under varying adverse conditions and determined the following information:
- About 23% of large truck crashes occur when commercial motor vehicle drivers are travelling too fast for conditions.
- Roughly 25% of speeding-related truck fatalities occur during adverse weather conditions.
- Approximately 40% of all large truck speeding-related fatalities occur on curves.
- Although ramps make up less than 5% of all highway miles traveled by commercial trucks, 20 – 30% of crashes occur on or near ramps.
- Large trucks with fully loaded trailers are 10 times more likely to roll over at high speeds than those with empty trailers.
Due to their large size, high center of gravity, extensive length, and weighty cargo, commercial trucks are more susceptible to speed-caused collisions than many other types of vehicles. A truck driver who does not account for the vehicle’s vulnerabilities when speeding on a highway puts everyone around them at risk. It’s important to learn the signs of a negligent truck driver in order to identify 18-wheelers more likely to cause accidents.
Traveling at unsafe speeds, and traveling too fast for conditions, can lead to the following types of speed-related large truck accidents:
- Rollovers from loss of balance
- Jackknife accidents
- Tire blowouts
- Collisions resulting from increased stopping distances
- Accidents from lack of driver reaction time
- Pedestrian accidents
- Skidding and loss of vehicle control
- Swaying and sideswipe collisions
- Rear-end collisions
What to Do After a Truck-Involved Accident
Those who have been involved in an accident caused by a speeding commercial truck know the ramifications of such a catastrophic event. The financial, physical, emotional, and psychological burdens associated with tractor-trailer crashes leave a lasting impact on the lives of those involved. Knowing that these accidents are extremely preventable is motivation to work harder in the fight against negligent truck driver behavior. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a truck-involved speeding accident, contact a trusted truck accident lawyer to begin taking legal action to prevent future occurrences of a similar tragedy.