SPEED LIMITERS: Michigan DOT opposes mandate

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Count the Michigan Department of Transportation among the growing chorus of opposition to a proposal to speed limit heavy vehicles.

Among the criticisms of the proposed speed limiter mandate outlined by MDOT Director Kirk Steudle, are the cost of enforcement, the dangers posed by speed differentials, and that the mandate is tantamount to a de facto national speed limit for trucks and buses.

“This rule would be contrary to the intent of Congress to relieve states from mandated speed
limits, as expressed in the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, which repealed the national maximum speed limit,” Steudle wrote. “MDOT believes that the ability to establish and amend speed limits should be left to each state as Congress intended.”

More than 5,000 comments have been filed already. The majority of those opposed to a proposed mandate to speed limit vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds say the risks posed by increasing vehicle interactions via speed differentials outweigh any purported safety benefit of slowing large trucks and buses down.

A Sept. 7 joint notice of proposed rulemaking by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, seeks public comment on a variety of issues connected with speed limiters, including whether to set the speed at 60, 65 or 68 mph. The agencies claim that reducing the travel speed of large vehicles will lead to a reduction in the severity of crashes, thereby reducing the number of fatal and serious injuries and reducing property damage.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes a government mandate speed limiting trucks, pointing to research that contradicts the fed’s 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.

MDOT’s comments also weighed in on the speed differential issue, describing the government’s decision to “set aside the issue of crash rates” as a risky approach.

“This proposed rule depends for its justification only on truck-involved crashes whose outcomes may be worsened by truck speed. This number could conceivably be exceeded by new crashes caused by impeding the flow of light-vehicle traffic around slow-moving trucks,” Steudle wrote. “Slowing the speed of all trucks will certainly result in more points of conflict on the roadways.”

Other national groups who filed comments opposing the proposed mandate or expressing concerns with the current proposal include the National Motorists Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Groundwater Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business. 

Groups who filed comments in support of the mandate include the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the National Safety Council, and the National Transportation Safety Board.

OOIDA’s website, FightingForTruckers.com, has more information about the Association’s opposition to the proposal, as well as ways for truckers to contact their lawmakers via letter and oppose a mandate.

The Fighting For Truckers website also includes a link to a list of talking points members can reference when filing comments for NHTSA and FMCSA to consider during the rulemaking process. Drivers who currently drive or have driven speed-limited trucks are encouraged to share their personal experiences and real-world, on-the-road problems they’ve faced when using such devices.

OOIDA encourages its members to submit comments via Regulations.gov at Docket FMCSA-2014-0083 or Docket NHTSA 2016-0087. All comments received will be duly considered by the joint NHTSA and FMCSA team. Comments only need to be posted to one docket. The public comment period will close Wednesday, Dec. 7.

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