SPECIAL REPORT: NHTSA to consider speed limiters on all trucks

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 12/30/2010

Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010 – The U.S. DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to initiate a rulemaking process in 2012 to consider the requirement of speed limiters on heavy trucks.

The agency granted petitions for rulemaking filed in 2006 by ATA, nine motor carriers and Road Safe America. OOIDA leadership says speed limiters would be a “meaningless intrusion.”

NHTSA regulators will officially publish a “grant of petition” in the Federal Register on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, stating that the agency believes the petitions filed in 2006 merit further consideration. ATA and safety groups claim that speed limiters would make the roads safer and cut fuel consumption.

OOIDA leadership says speed-limiting trucks would not have the effects desired by the petitioners.

“This is just more meaningless government intrusion into truckers’ lives, compliments of the ATA,” OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz said. “Drivers need to give ATA full credit for this.”

Rajkovacz said that of all the rulemakings coming out of Washington designed to enhance highway safety, speed limiters would be the most counterproductive.

“Speed limiters will do nothing to improve highway safety. In fact, it could be argued that a speed-limiter mandate would actually increase car-truck interactions and dangerous speed differentials on the highways,” Rajkovacz said.

“When weather and traffic conditions permit, there is absolutely nothing unsafe about a truck operating at posted speed limits, and most western states allow trucks to travel at the posted speed limit – the same as cars – at 75 mph.”

NHTSA stated in the notice that it plans to initiate a rulemaking process in 2012 by way of a notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM. The agency states that initiating the process by no means guarantees an actual regulation will be adopted.

ATA submitted its petition to NHTSA on Oct. 20, 2006, requesting that the agency initiate a rulemaking to require all new heavy trucks 26,000 pounds and heavier to be equipped with speed-limiting devices at the point of manufacture to cap road speed at a maximum of 68 mph.

A month before ATA’s filing, a group called Road Safe America along with nine large motor carriers filed a similar petition. Those carriers are Schneider National, C.R. England, H.O. Wolding, ATS Intermodal, Dart Transit Company, J.B. Hunt Transport, U.S. Xpress, Covenant Transport and Jet Express.

During a public comment period in January 2007, fleets and safety groups claimed that speed limiters would make the highways safer and reduce fuel consumption.

OOIDA countered by saying the ATA and large fleets are merely trying to “level the playing field” by slowing down their competitors.

“Many large fleets have not been shy about claiming this is a competitive issue of leveling the playing field. This is all about handicapping the smaller operators who provide far better service than they could ever provide,” Rajkovacz said.

Rajkovacz points out that NHTSA, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recently opened another door to speed limiters in a separate NPRM geared toward improving fuel economy in heavy commercial vehicles.

“This is very perplexing that NHTSA is granting this petition to ATA when they are already involved with U.S. EPA in a proposed rulemaking that would already require speed limiters on newly manufactured vehicles,” Rajkovacz said.

NHTSA says further analysis is needed on the issue of speed limiters even though a number of studies already exist – and show varying results.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently undergoing its own research to “quantitatively evaluate the safety impact and associated economic benefits of speed limiters in commercial motor vehicles.”

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