Lawmakers move to head off mandate for speed-limiting devices

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | 8/31/2017

A proposed amendment would keep any money earmarked in a new federal appropriations bill from being used to further a proposed federal mandate for speed limiters on commercial vehicles.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., filed the amendment as part of H.R. 3354, an appropriations bill for the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Environment and other related agencies. If approved, the amendment would prohibit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from using any of the funds from being used to finalize a September 2016 advance notice of proposed rulemaking that would require speed-limiting devices on commercial vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has long opposed any effort to mandate speed-limiting devices on commercial trucks, citing research that risks posed by increasing vehicle interactions via speed differentials outweigh any purported safety benefit of slowing down large trucks and buses. The Association has previously asked the agencies to withdraw the rulemaking proceeding.

The Association issued a letter Thursday in support of the amendment.

OOIDA 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. The Association challenges the assertion that slowing trucks down will lead to safer roadways, saying the data the agencies used to reach those conclusions in the regulatory impact analysis is deeply flawed and fails to consider the documented risks created by speed differentials between passenger and commercial motor vehicles.

“OOIDA is most concerned that speed limiters will make the safest roads – the highways – more dangerous,” the Association stated in comments filed in December 2016 as part of the rulemaking process.

The Association cited split speeds as the primary concern for public safety, something a speed limiter mandate would exacerbate, particularly in states like Texas, where speed limits are as high as 85 mph. Those differentials, OOIDA argues, create more dynamic interaction between cars and trucks than if they were all traveling predictably at the prevailing rate of speed. Only nine states still impose differential speed limits for cars and heavy-duty trucks. OOIDA has lobbied extensively to encourage states to move to uniform speeds for all vehicles.

A Sept. 7, 2016, joint notice of proposed rulemaking by NHTSA and FMCSA sought public comment on a variety of issues connected with speed limiters, including whether to set the speed at 60, 65 or 68 mph, and whether or not a proposed mandate should include a retrofit for all vehicles. 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 proposed rulemaking drew more than 6,700 comments last fall during the public comment period.

Other national groups who filed comments opposing the proposed mandate or expressing concerns with the current proposal include the National Motorists Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Groundwater Association, National Federation of Independent Business, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Michigan DOT. Several state trucking associations also have filed comments against the proposed mandate.

The American Trucking Associations, which initially sought a mandate on speed limiters in a petition filed in 2006, filed comments opposing the proposed rule. ATA’s criticism of the proposed mandate is it lacks the necessary data and research demonstrating that “it would not create new safety hazards that might outweigh any safety benefits anticipated by the agencies.”

Related articles:
Researcher: Speed limiter proposal 'a problem of perception'
OOIDA: Speed limiter proposal would make America's highways more dangerous

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