Feds project new dates for speed-limiter proposal

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Friday, February 20, 2015

Two U.S. federal agencies are still pushing toward a rule in 2015 that would require speed limiters on heavy trucks, but they have pushed back their projected timeline by a month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now anticipate their joint notice of proposed rulemaking to be sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget on March 2 after a previous projection of Feb. 2 passed.

The adjustment pushes back other projected benchmarks for the proposal by a month. The agencies are now projecting clearance from OMB on June 4 instead of May 4 and for a rule to be published on June 8 instead of May 7.

If the agencies meet their new intended deadlines, publication of a rule would trigger a 60-day public comment period.

Specifically, the NHTSA portion of the rule, proposed in 2011, responds to petitions filed in 2006 by the American Trucking Associations and Roadsafe America to require the installation of speed-limiting devices on newly manufactured heavy trucks. The agency believes the proposal will decrease fatal crashes involving trucks on roads with posted speed limits of 55 mph and above.

The FMCSA portion of the rule is identical except it would call for all trucks – not just new ones – to activate their speed limiters within the electronic control modules (ECMs).

At this stage, the joint proposal does not prescribe a specific speed for the limiters to be set, but it is widely believed that it would be either 68 mph or 65 mph.

Setting speed limiters at either of those speeds would force trucks to move at a slower speed than the flow of traffic on many, if not most, American interstate highways.

Studies have shown that speed differentials – vehicles moving at different speeds rather than at uniform speeds – lead to more vehicle interactions on the highways and increase the likelihood of dangerous maneuvers, many of which involve cars that merge, pass and cut-in around trucks.

FMCSA did a study that compared motor carriers with speed limiters to those without speed limiters. In draft form the study showed little or no safety benefit for speed limiters, but the final version showed a safety benefit.

OOIDA is not the only one to dispute the FMCSA study and claims about safety. The author of studies on speed differentials on U.S. interstates, Steven Johnson of the University of Arkansas, was also part of the peer-review group for the FMCSA motor carrier study. After the final version of the study was published, Johnson wrote a rebuttal disputing the science used to substantiate FMCSA’s findings.

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