SPEED LIMITERS: Feds propose speed limiters for trucks, but not a speed

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 8/26/2016

Federal regulators are proposing to speed limit trucks, but they just don’t know what speed they want them set at.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a preliminary copy of a notice of proposed rulemaking on Friday, Aug. 26, that seeks to mandate speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks.

As expected, the proposed regulation seeks to require truck manufacturers activate speed limiters at the time of manufacture and possibly all trucks with engine control modules (ECUs) capable of restricting speed be activated on trucks already on the road. In both instances the agencies are proposing that the speed limiters remain activated throughout the life of the truck.

The agencies are not, however, prepared to pick the speed that the speed limiters should be set at. Throughout the rulemaking process the agencies studied speeds of 60, 65 and 68 mph – estimating the number of lives that would be saved by limiting trucks to each of the various speeds.

“The agencies estimate that limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 60 mph would save 162 to 498 lives annually, limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 65 mph would save 63 to 214 lives annually, and limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 68 mph would save 27 to 96 lives annually,” agency officials state in the NPRM. “Although we believe that the 60 mph alternative would result in additional safety benefits, we are not able to quantify the 60 mph alternative with the same confidence as the 65 mph and 68 mph alternatives.”

If speed limiters were to be mandated, the agencies are proposing that in order to ensure that the speeds have not been adjusted and meet the set speed, that the speed determination be able to be read on the roadside through on-board diagnostic connections. And, not only would the reading report the current speed the truck was set at, but the feds are proposing that the truck report the previous two speed settings, along with the time and date of those speed modifications.

In 2006, the American Trucking Associations and Roadsafe America petitioned NHTSA and the FMCSA to pursue a rulemaking to mandate speed limiters on heavy trucks. The NPRM states the groups asked for a 68 mph cap on speeds. NHTSA, on its own, granted the petition in 2011 and began drafting a proposal. FMCSA rejoined NHTSA in May 2013.

The proposal has been stalled at the White House Office of Management and Budget for more than a year.

The agency does not state when the comment period will officially open for the proposal, but a 60-day comment period is planned.

“While we are in the very first stages of reviewing the agencies’ proposal, it’s about what we expected – a feel-good proposal based on shaky science that will likely detract from highway safety,” said Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, OOIDA director of government affairs.

“The arguments in support of speed limiters haven’t changed much. Neither has the science, which is in part why we didn’t see DOT pursue a rule long ago. It will be interesting to see what the justification is this time, but rest assured OOIDA is more than ready to fight this on a variety of fronts.”

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