SPEED LIMITERS: Proposal finally clears White House review

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 8/16/2016

After languishing for more than a year in a cost-benefit review at the White House, a proposal to mandate speed limiters on heavy trucks has finally been given approval from the Office of Management and Budget.

The announcement was made late Monday, Aug. 15, by the U.S. Department of Transportation, as part of the agency’s monthly report on significant rulemakings. The rule is tentatively slated to be published on Aug. 26, according to the DOT report.

The proposal was first submitted for review on May 19, 2015. OMB approval of rulemakings typically occurs within 90 days. Last September, OMB extended the review period. No reason was given.

The proposed rulemaking must be published in The Federal Register before a 60-day comment period can formally begin. The proposed regulation should shed light on the requirement for new vehicles, as well as what exactly FMCSA has up its sleeve for trucks currently on the road.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s regulatory and government affairs divisions say they are anxious to see what took so long.

“This stage of the regulatory process isn’t always transparent, so we’ve been in wait-and-see mode since last year,” said Laura O’Neill-Kaumo, OOIDA director of government affairs. “We have a long history of fighting on this issue, and we will continue to challenge the ‘accepted wisdom’ behind it.”

OOIDA opposes a government mandate on this issue, pointing to research that contradicts the feds’ 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.

In May, OOIDA issued a Call to Action to members to oppose an effort by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the transportation funding bill.

O’Neill-Kaumo said the foundation of the FMCSA’s speed limiter argument is based on shaky science. She pointed to a 2012 rebuttal of the agency's study that proclaimed a “profound safety benefit” for speed limiters, written by one of the researchers who authored the study.

“The data underpinning FMCSA’s initial proposal didn’t even include the speed of a truck at the time of a crash,” she said. “Additional studies by OOIDA and by the Department of Transportation have found that speed differentials actually increase the risk for crashes.”

Scott Grenerth, OOIDA regulatory affairs director, said the increase in vehicle interactions caused by speed differentials is a much more robust threat to public safety.

“Studies have confirmed what truckers already know: A 10-mph differential in speed increases vehicle interactions by 227 percent,” he said. “Speed limiters are a danger to all highway users.”

A two-agency rulemaking between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the regulation was prompted by a 2006 petition from the American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America.

Under the proposed rule, NHTSA will have jurisdiction over newly manufactured trucks and could, through this rulemaking process, mandate that all new trucks be equipped with activated speed-limiting devices.

While not publicly disclosed, FMCSA’s ability to regulate speed limiters would be limited to trucks currently on the road. Although mandating retrofits or activation of the device would be a stretch of the agency’s authority, the agency would be able to prohibit trucks without activated speed-limiting devices from operating in interstate commerce.

“OOIDA is ready to evaluate the proposed rule and make it clear that emphasis should probably be on greater enforcement of existing speed limits, rather than technology that will not improve highway safety,” O’Neill-Kaumo said.

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