Congress approves amendment curbing funds for speed limiter mandate

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | 9/7/2017

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved an appropriations bill that prohibits any funds to be used to advance a costly proposal to mandate speed limiters in commercial trucks and buses.

An amendment sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and co-sponsored by Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., was approved by voice vote Wednesday evening during debate over HR3354, an appropriations bill for the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Environment and other related agencies. The amendment prohibits the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from using any funds 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 supported the amendment and encouraged its members to contact Congress and ask their representatives to back the measure. Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, says the next challenge will be ensuring the measure receives broad support from senators.

"We're obviously thrilled Congressman Perry's amendment to cut off funding for FMCSA to move forward with their speed limiter proposal was adopted,” Matousek said. “Now we need to make sure the provision survives in the Senate and is ultimately signed into law.”

OOIDA 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 The Association has previously asked for the rulemaking proceeding to be withdrawn altogether.

The 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.

“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.

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:
Effort to stall speed limiter mandate heading for a House vote
Researcher: Speed limiter proposal ‘a problem of perception’
OOIDA: Speed limiter proposal would make America’s highways more dangerous

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