SPEED LIMITERS: More than 6,080 comments on proposal with one week left

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 11/30/2016

With only one week left to submit comments to federal regulators on a proposal to mandate speed limiters on heavy vehicles, truckers and motor carriers continue to voice their concerns about how the proposal would affect both their safety and their businesses.

“We have many good and safe truck drivers out there on the road, and a speed limiter on all trucks would penalize the good drivers,” said Danny Schnautz of Clark Freight Lines in Pasadena, Texas. “Most people have never had the frustration of driving a vehicle that won't keep up with traffic. It is defeating and dangerous, and since drivers get paid by the mile in most cases, it is a pay cut.”

Schnautz, an OOIDA senior member, also said that while the government’s intention of reducing the severity of some crashes by mandating trucks and other large vehicles slow down, the frequency of crashes is likely to increase, because of increased speed differentials between trucks and other motorists, particularly in western states with higher speed limits. More than 6,080 comments have been submitted on the proposal as of Wednesday. The comment period concludes one week from today on Wednesday, Dec. 7. 

“Large fleets support this because it dumbs-down the industry to all be slower moving,” he said. “The supply chain depends on velocity – speed to market. This is measured in minutes for critical industries like air freight and auto manufacturing. Trucking goes to great lengths to reduce transit times and to be safe. This regulation works against both of these goals. Just say ‘no’ to speed limiters.”

The Mississippi Trucking Association became the latest state trucking association to file comments opposing the proposed mandate, citing the vagueness of the proposal and the lack of consideration for the dangers created by speed differentials between truck and motorist traffic. MTA President Hal Miller also chided the proposal for a lack of “hard data” and called for the proposal to be withdrawn until the effects of speed differentials on safety had been completed.

“Throughout the (notice of proposed rulemaking) there is a use of estimates, references to ‘common sense’ approaches, and general assumptions due to lack of data,” Miller wrote in his comments. “This lack of hard data and inability to quantify actual benefits is even acknowledged in the proposed rule. We don’t feel it is best to create these new regulations with the absence of the proper study.”

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 mandatory speed limiters, pointing to research that contradicts the feds’ claimed “safety benefits,” 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 that 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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