If you think driving less than 5 MPH over the posted limit doesn’t matter, then you might be missing the bigger picture. Any time a driver gives an officer a reason to initiate a stop, that driver is now vulnerable to other violations that the officer may not have known about if he hadn’t pulled over the rig. And it’s not just the company that loses: a CDL driver’s record also impacts their personal insurance premiums. Drivers may forget this, but you can use that fact to your advantage as a safety coach – and also do your drivers a big personal favor.

It’s not just the citation and police interaction that will cost you. Maintenance and fuel costs are a significant line item in any fleet’s budget, and we all know that average MPG drops for every mile per hour over 65 on a standard diesel tractor. Similarly, maintenance costs increase by a number that you’re hopefully already calculated for your fleet’s unique equipment and load parameters. And that’s just the beginning of impact on fleet costs.

Let’s take a look at the impacts of “minimal” speeding on both driver and fleet.

What it costs drivers

As a CDL driver, I got popped in Illinois for going 3 MPH over the posted speed limit. I was coasting down a hill with my Jake Brake on, and even though I was less than 5 MPH over, it was all the officer needed to pull me over.

When the officer jumped up on my running board after I pulled over, the first words out of his mouth were, “Seem to be in a mighty big hurry.” I thought he was joking. He was not, and my laughing at his “joke” was the wrong response.

3 MPH over, but what’s the real goal of the stop?

So here I am in Illinois with an officer who had ‘Oil or Grease Leak, CFR 49 396.5(b)’ written in the ticket even before he got out of the squad car to get my information. He then proceeded to hold me on the side of the road for the next 45 minutes while he inspected the vehicle in search of additional violations. Like most drivers, I keep my rig in top condition, so he couldn’t find anything.

Since I ran such a clean truck, I did get him to remove that oil or grease leak ticket. Instead, he cited me for the original violation: 3 over the posted speed limit. He even admitted that his lieutenant has a motto: “if you pull a truck over, you need to write a ticket.” Without going into why this is aggravating and unfair, the story doesn’t end there.

Now the consequences

A few weeks later, my insurance agent called to laugh at me. He asked me what I did to upset the cop and land the ticket. When I explained how I talked him out of a oil or grease leak ticket, the agent really felt bad. He also reminded me that the oil and grease leak would have been on the company, not me.

Here’s what those 3MPH cost me:

  • Nearly an hour of time off of the road
  • $125 fine to the state of Illinois
  • Raised insurance rates for the next 5 years
  • Points on my CSA score caused me to lose my safety bonus for the month

In hindsight, I should have kept my mouth shut and taken the grease ticket instead of the speeding citation. Imagine if the officer had found other violations to add to the ticket. It could have easily become a very expensive stop, and all over a mere 3 MPH.

Roadside vs scales = advantage v disadvantage

We can be prepared for driver inspections at the scales. We know when and where they happen. We can schedule them into our delivery times. Roadside inspections are an entirely different matter. It’s a little more like the wild west. At the scales, they want to get you moved through so that they can keep the flow moving.

By the side of the road, on the other hand, an officer has all the time in the world to check every possible thing that could have been overlooked. This is why you want to avoid those extra 2 or 3 MPH – they don’t make nearly enough of a difference to warrant the risk of an endless roadside inspection.

Remember, in most cases, if your truck is pulled over, your driver is bringing home a ticket for whatever the officer can toss at him. Remind your drivers that this can cost them as much if not more than the company – precisely because their CDL is linked to their personal driving record and fines.

What it costs fleets

Tickets that result in fines and time off the road are a pain, but they’re not the only factors in determining the true cost of 1-5 MPH over the speed limit tickets, though. The overall cost of maintenance and fuel economy also come into play.

Diesel engines get peak performance when you run them at a constant, lower RPM. Most diesels get their best MPG at speeds below 65 MPH. Ever wonder  why you don’t see diesel engines in NASCAR vehicles?

Brake usage = lost fuel

You are already monitoring your fleet for sudden starts and sudden stops, but are you looking at your ‘brake/mile’ readings? A good telematics package will even tell how many times your drivers touch the brakes in each MPH bracket, as well as your MPG within that bracket. Think of it this way: every time a driver touches the brake, it’s like pouring diesel on the pavement. What about incentivizing not using the brakes to control speed? You have already slowed your drivers down without even talking about speed.

Keeping up with traffic = excess throttle and braking

Are you monitoring your speed and following distance reports?If the posted limit is 65 MPH, then the driver should set the rig at 62 MPH and keep it steady at that speed. Here’s why: if a driver is ‘keeping up with traffic’, then he’s constantly using the brake to open up his following distance. He’s also repeatedly hitting the throttle to catch up. How much wear and tear does that put on the brakes and the engine? Now if you factor in your fuel economy, ‘Keeping up’ results in both immediate (fuel) and long term (maintenance) costs.

The ultimate cost, even at 1-5 mph over

The biggest cost of all is much greater than those we’ve considered so far. It’s one we don’t like to talk about, but it’s the elephant in the room that can’t be ignored: How expensive is a fatal crash? A big truck increases the possibility of a crash every time the driver changes lanes. Those few extra MPH can be deadly when a truck is trying to keep up with traffic. That’s how 40 car pileups can happen in inclement weather. It also makes the difference between a ‘no fault’ or ‘some other driver’s fault’ accident. If your driver is speeding, even 1-5 mph, it’s much more likely that the driver and your fleet will be cited. And way beyond lawsuits, insurance, and equipment costs, we all believe  that nothing is more valuable than a human life, be it a motorist or a CDL driver.

The big picture on small speeding

According to the FMCSA, the transportation industry has a fatality rate of 1.43 people killed per million miles traveled in the US. At the end of the day, that extra 5 MPH isn’t going to save anybody any real amount of time or money, and certainly not enough to justify risking tickets, higher maintenance costs, or worse, a fatal accident.

Think it through. Use real world examples. Prove to your drivers that speeding doesn’t actually save you time or money, especially when it puts lives at risk.