SPEED LIMITERS: Commenters say proposed rule 'ignores legitimate safety hazards'

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 11/23/2016

Truckers and trucking industry professionals continue to voice their concerns about a proposed federal mandate to speed limit vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, saying such a mandate would actually create more unsafe driving conditions.

More than 5,800 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. The comment period concludes two weeks from today, on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

In comments filed earlier this month, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a Washington D.C.-based association representing more than 800 member companies with U.S. DOT authority that process, broker and consume scrap commodities, said the proposed rule fails to address scenarios in which speed-limited trucks must try to pass each other on an interstate highway, which could cause motorists to tailgate or use other potentially dangerous maneuvers, especially in the 34 states where highway speeds are 70 mph or greater.

“The proposed rule ignores the legitimate and known safety hazard of speed differentials,” wrote Commodor E. Hall, Transportation Safety Director for ISRI. “There is nothing in the record offered to show the safety impact when a 60, 65, or 68 mph limit is applied to commercial motor vehicles that weigh in excess of 26,000 pounds while surrounded by cars and other smaller trucks traveling at speeds of 10, 15 and perhaps 20 mph greater… This scenario poses a significant risk for motorists on the roads.”

Instead of speed limiters, ISRI recommended the using currently available technologies like GPS systems, ELDs, and accident avoidance devices to improve safety. The group also noted that future advancements in vehicle-to-vehicle communications “will soon allow cars and trucks to communicate with and avoid each other.”

“In such an environment, a speed limiter would offer no additional safety benefit and would merely be an unnecessary cost and a potential safety hazard,” the comments stated.

OOIDA members and truckers also continue to make their voices heard.

OOIDA Life Member Tilden Curl, of Olympia, Wash., says slowing trucks down will lead to more interactions from passenger vehicles traveling at greater speeds.

“More interaction of vehicles leads to greater chance of accidents,” he wrote. “The safest speed for all motorists is to travel at the same speed thereby reducing the number of interactions and increasing safety.”

Curl, who noted in his comments that he has more than 25 years in the industry and over 2 million safe miles, also said speed limiters take control of the truck out of the driver’s hands.

“There are countless scenarios where drivers must speed up to avoid accidents or allow others to merge into traffic, but this would not be possible with speed limiters,” he said.

Fellow OOIDA Life Member Steve Davenport, of Lewisville, Texas, said that when it comes to speed limiters, one size does not fit all.

“The advantage of hands-on has no substitute, knowing you can react to a situation in safe manner is most important,” he wrote. “The idea that creating speed differentials on roads safe at the speeds posted is dangerous and irresponsible. Productivity is what matters to most drivers that I talk to and limiting their ability to earn a living becomes a stress that is unnecessary, counterproductive and dangerous.”

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.

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, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Groups who have 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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