SPEED LIMITERS: OOIDA files for 60-day extension of comment period

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 9/9/2016

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is requesting a 60-day extension to the speed limiter comment period.

The request comes days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Administration released a proposed rulemaking that would require commercial trucks and other heavy vehicles be equipped with a speed-limiting device. It’s currently slated for only a 60-day comment period. OOIDA is seeking a 120-day comment period.

In its request, OOIDA noted that the proposed rule is “one of the most significant” rulemakings in decades, and the current 60-day comment period needs to be extended to allow more time to adequately address the proposal.

“This is one of the most significant NPRMs in decades as it relates to the safety of the traveling public, roadway efficiency, and the livelihood of our nation’s professional truck drivers,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer wrote in the request. “One way or another, the outcome of this NPRM will impact everyone. Considering what is at stake, as well as the amount of time and resources it will take for OOIDA and our members – many of which are on the road and away from home for 250 days (or more) each year – to develop meaningful comments, DOT should accept our reasonable request for a 60-day extension to file comments.”

The comment period on the NPRM began Sept. 7.

The proposal, filed jointly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, seeks public comment on a variety of issues that generally are resolved prior to filing an NPRM – such as the speed at which heavy vehicles should be restricted, the financial impact to small-business truck and bus companies, and whether or not to limit the mandate to new vehicles only or order a retrofit for all trucks.

The proposal calls for a three-year lead time from publication of a final rule for manufacturers to meet the proposed requirements.

OOIDA opposes a government mandate on this issue, pointing to research that contradicts the feds’ claimed “safety benefits” of speed limiters, as it would force a speed differential between heavy trucks and other vehicles using the highways. That would lead to more vehicle interactions, unsafe maneuvering and crashes, a study of speed differentials shows.

The proposed rulemaking seeks input on a wide range of issues related to speed limiters, including the maximum speed devices should be set at, retrofitting existing trucks, and other matters such as fuel efficiency that fall “outside the scope of highway safety” Spencer wrote.

“The agencies’ proposal is also based on complex research that in some instances is being used in an unconventional way,” Spencer wrote. “Further, the NPRM addresses topics that are outside the scope of highway safety, such as fuel efficiency, which will require stakeholders to analyze an entirely different set of data.”

OOIDA’s website, FightingForTruckers.com, has more information about the Association’s opposition to the mandate, as well as ways for truckers to contact their lawmakers and oppose a mandate. You can also file comments on the proposal here and here.  

When it comes to quantifying the costs, NHTSA reports that it expects the bottom-line hit on manufacturers of new heavy vehicles to be “insignificant” because those vehicles already come with engine control units.

The cost to the professionals in the industry is significantly higher, according to the proposed rule, due to increased travel time, hiring additional drivers, and potentially longer delivery times. The agencies estimate those costs at more than $1.5 billion annually for 60 mph speed limiters; $514 million annually for 65 mph; and $206 million annually for 68 mph, assuming a 7 percent discount rate. The report also claims that those costs would be offset by fuel savings accrued from driving at lower speeds.

When it comes to small truck and bus companies, as well as owner-operators, the agencies’ report notes that smaller companies would be at a competitive disadvantage under the new proposed rule.

“Some small businesses currently traveling at higher speeds might not be able to expand quickly enough to make the extra trips necessary to compensate for the increased travel times resulting from limiting their speed,” the proposal states. “Instead of these small independent trucking companies buying new trucks and/or hiring additional drivers, we expect that large trucking companies would absorb the additional cargo with their reserve capacity of trucks and drivers.”

While the agencies note they have “limited data” on how the rulemaking would affect owner-operators, it estimated that those affected by this rulemaking stand to lose $54 million in labor income.

In explaining the proposed safety benefits, the proposed rule states that the agencies have chosen not to include an estimate of crashes avoided by mandating speed limiters, instead focusing on the supposed benefits of reducing crash severity. The agencies invite public comment and any additional information on this matter.

Further estimates of the number of lives saved and injuries mitigated vary in the report based on whether the final rule will mandate speeds at 60, 65 or 68 mph.

The joint rulemaking was prompted by a 2006 petition from the American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America.

Under the proposed rule, NHTSA will have jurisdiction over newly manufactured trucks and could, through this rulemaking process, mandate that all new trucks be equipped with activated speed-limiting devices.

While not publicly disclosed, FMCSA’s ability to regulate speed limiters would be limited to trucks currently on the road. Although mandating retrofits or activation of the device would be a stretch of the agency’s authority, the agency would be able to prohibit trucks without activated speed-limiting devices from operating in interstate commerce.

The subject of retrofitting comes up in the proposed rulemaking as another request for additional comment. Although a 2006 petition by Road Safe America requests that all trucks manufactured after 1990 be fitted with electronic speed governors, the agencies are concerned that such requirements could prove to be too costly.

Related stories:
Speed limiters: Comment period on proposed mandate now open
OOIDA issues Call-To-Action on speed limiters

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