SPEED LIMITERS: Number of comments tops 6,400 as filing deadline looms

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 12/5/2016

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

More than 6,400 comments had been submitted on the proposal as of Monday, Dec. 5. The comment period concludes on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

The National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council is the latest industry group to weigh in on the proposal, saying the proposed mandate as written would do more harm than good, and should not be adopted.

In comments filed on Dec. 4, NASSTRAC’s counsel John M. Cutler wrote that the problem of ignoring concerns about speed differentials potentially leading to more frequent crashes as “a major flaw in the agencies’ analysis.”

“As the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) recognizes, speed limiters could lead to modest delays in deliveries. Though this result is not something most NASSTRAC members would welcome, it is not the reason we oppose the agencies’ speed limiter proposals,” Cutler wrote. “Rather, we believe the proposals have been inadequately researched, developed and explained, and we share the concern of many trucking companies that a speed limiter mandate, as currently proposed, would do more harm than good.”

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.

Even groups that have filed comments in support of speed limiters have asked the regulatory agencies to consider the risks of split-speed differentials.

Parcel delivery giant UPS filed comments on Dec. 1 in support of the proposed mandate, but urged regulators to set the speed at 68 mph, and to develop an allowance for higher truck speeds of 72 mph, “where warranted by local road conditions and higher posted speed limits.”

“Our experience has been that governing some of our vehicles at 72 mph within the 15 states that have 75 mph or higher speed limits has helped us mitigate the speed differential factor,” UPS Vice Presidents Jules Moise and Thomas Jensen wrote in the comments. “UPS would be deeply concerned if the agency governed vehicles at a relatively low rate of speed (i.e. – 60 or 65 mph) where posted speed limits were 10-20 miles per hour greater. In our opinion, minimizing the speed differential factor should be the critical objective of this initiative.”

The UPS comments also note the company has used speed limiters in its own fleet for 20 years, and that the 68 mph setting with an allowance for up to 72 mph is its own standard. The company urged the regulatory agencies to consider the negative impact on highway safety that would arise from having a large speed differential between heavy truck traffic and passenger vehicles.

“Given our vast experience in commercial vehicle fleet operations, UPS concludes that the speed differential scenario that would arise from limiting trucks at a lower rate of speed would actually have a net negative impact on highway safety,” the comments read. NASSTRAC’s comments also called the adverse impact the rulemaking would have on small businesses as a significant flaw, and chided the agencies for putting the burden of quantifying that impact on those affected businesses.

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. 

Other groups that have filed comments in support of the mandate include Road Safe America, the Truck Safety Coalition, 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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