Seeing double: California bill mandates speed limiters, side underride guards for trucks

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A California state senator has introduced legislation that includes two provisions that would impact truckers and equipment manufacturers based and/or doing business in the state.

Senate Bill 961, introduced by California Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) on Jan. 23, would require that every vehicle -- passenger vehicles, “motortrucks” and buses -- manufactured or sold in the state be equipped with speed limiters that prevent the driver from exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 miles per hour. Speed limiters under the bill would "only be capable of being temporarily disabled by the driver of the vehicle.”

The requirement would begin with the 2027 model year, should the bill pass and be signed into law. Emergency vehicles would be exempt from the requirement.

In addition to speed limiters, the bill would also require every “motortruck, trailer, or semitrailer” with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds that is manufactured, sold or registered in California to be equipped with side underride guards. It would also require drivers of these vehicles “to conduct regular inspections of side guards for damage and functionality and to repair or replace damaged units as necessary.”

[Related: Side underride guard mandate: Rail disaster waiting to happen?]

The bill defines side guards as a “lateral protection system” that provides “crash protection for a midsize car to prevent the intrusion of the occupant survival space when struck at any location and from any angle [at] any speed up to 40 miles per hour.” The guards would also be required to cover and protect “any exposed space between the front and rear wheels” of the included vehicles.

Both speed limiters and side underride guards, of course, are also under the microscope with potential mandates for carriers and manufacturers at the federal level. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is set to publish a rulemaking proposal at any time to require speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks.

Likewise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, signaling it will forge ahead with rulemaking that would require trailers be equipped with side underride guards.

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[Related: FMCSA Administrator grilled in Congress over speed-limiter mandate pursuit]