A Primer on Speed Management – Part III

Welcome back to Part III in our ongoing series, A Primer on Speed Management. As a professional truck driver, it is imperative that you are maintaining control of a vehicle that is often barreling down the road with thousands of pounds of freight being pulled behind it.

The fact is, if you aren’t watching your speed, any number of terrible things could happen, so this week we are going to move on from talking about weather and dig into specific aspects of the roadway that should govern your speed. The last thing you need is your tires lifting because you race around a road curve too quickly. Finally, we’ll take a look at how utilization of cruise control might affect how you operate.

Road Shapes – Curves

Always remember that the posted speed limits on curves are designed for passenger cars. Driving a semi-truck pulling freight at or above the posted speed limit can cause a number of problems, not the least of which being skidding off the road or rolling the vehicle over.

You must always slow to a safe speed before entering a curve – a speed that is at least 5 miles per hour below the posted limit. Make sure you slow down as needed, but also remember that sharp braking in a curve can also be dangerous. It is easier to lock your vehicle’s wheels and go into a skid this way.

Never, ever exceed the posted speed limit while negotiating a curve. Finally, to help maintain vehicle control, always be in a gear that will allow you to slightly accelerate through a curve.

Road Shapes – Grades

When understanding speed management, remember that gravity and weight both play a part in how you negotiate up or downgrades.

On an upgrade, your vehicle must work harder to fight against the pull of gravity in order to maintain its speed. In order to maintain your speed, you must put constant pressure on the accelerator, and/or possibly shift into a lower gear.

Conversely, on a downgrade, your vehicle is working with gravity, so you will experience an increase in speed. Vehicle weight must also be a consideration on a downgrade. Heavier trucks will always want to accelerate faster on a downgrade. Always practice care when maintaining even speed during an up or downgrade.

Use of Cruise Control

Due to safety concerns, a large majority of fleets have policies in place that either limit or prohibit the use of cruise control. In situations where you do use cruise control, however, it is vitally important to take certain considerations in mind.

First, only use cruise control in good driving conditions, during the day, and on roads that have light traffic, few curves or mountain passes or hills, and a steady speed limit.

Never use cruise control under the following conditions:

  • When the weather is wet, icy, snowy or slippery;
  • During rush hour, heavy traffic or on congested highways;
  • When you are feeling tired or fatigued, and;
  • At night.

Using Adaptive Cruise Control

In this age of connected fleets and smart highways, some manufacturers are fitting adaptive cruise control technologies on their vehicles.

In an adaptive system, you program speed and following distance settings and the truck does the rest. The system uses forward-looking sensors to monitor speed and following distance and adjusts accordingly

Speed Limit Violations

Two or more excessive speeding violations – 15 miles per hour or more above the posted limit – in either a commercial or passenger vehicle, can disqualify you from operating a commercial motor vehicle. Under section 383.51 of the FMCSRs, you can face a disqualification period of 60-120 days.

All speeding convictions become a part of your permanent driving record, whether you are disqualified or not. And since your driving record must be reviewed by your employer each time you begin work with a new motor carrier, this could have a significant impact on your career.

Finally, speeding convictions can cost you a lot of money in fines and court fees. You will also require higher insurance premiums.

In the end, for so many reasons, speeding just isn’t worth it. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series looking at speeding. Take these lessons with you and be a caretaker of the open road!