The trucking community has just 30 days to make their voices heard as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) pushes forward with a plan to require speed limiting devices on heavy duty trucks.
Starting on Wednesday, May 4, the FMCSA will accept public comments on its intent to proceed with a speed limiter rule that was proposed several years ago.
Public comments will be accepted through June 3, 2022.
In a Notice of Intent document published on April 27, the FMCSA announced “its intent to proceed with a speed limiter rulemaking by preparing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to follow up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s and FMCSA’s jointly issued September 7, 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking on this subject.”
The FMCSA plans to propose that any commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more be equipped with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) that will be capable of governing speed to a limit that will be determined during the rulemaking process.
The FMCSA is specifically requesting public comment on the programming or adjustment of ECUs that could be made to impose speed limits on CMVs, including responses to the questions below:
1. What percentage of the CMV fleet currently uses speed limiting devices?
2. If in use, at what maximum speed are the devices generally set?
3. What skill sets or training are needed for motor carriers’ maintenance personnel to adjust or program ECUs to set speed limits?
4. What tools or equipment are needed to adjust or program ECUs?
5. How long would adjustment or reprogramming of an ECU take?
6. Where can the adjustment or reprogramming of an ECU be completed?
6.a. Can the adjustment or reprogramming of an ECU be made on-site where the vehicle is ordinarily housed or garaged, or would it have to be completed at a dealership?
7. Do responses to questions 3 through 6 change based on the model year of the power unit?
8. Since publication of the NPRM, how has standard practice or technology changed as it relates to the ability to set speed limits using ECUs?
9. Are there any challenges or burdens associated with FMCSA publishing a rule without NHTSA updating the FMVSS?
10. Should FMCSA revisit using the 2003 model year as the baseline requirement for the rule?
11. Should FMCSA consider a retrofit requirement in the rule and, if so, should it be based on model year or other criteria, and what would the cost of such a requirement be?
12. Should FMCSA include Classes 3-6 ( i.e., 10,001-26,001 lbs. GVWR) in the SNPRM?
By 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, there were three public comments on the proposed speed limiter rule, all three of which were opposed to the rule.
“Limiting speeds in trucks will not make them safer. All it will do is impede traffic in places where the truck speed limit is higher, making driving a truck more dangerous for the truck driver because the cars around it will be making aggressive maneuvers to get around it. This law is an over reach, if there is a problem with a few truck speeding, you need to use the State Patrol to in force the speed limit on those law breaking drivers and not make this job more dangerous for the rest of us,” said commenter Beyond Dirt LLC.
Calls for a speed limiter rule have been increasing in 2022. Rep. Lucy McBath and Rep. John Katko pushed for CMV speed limiters when they introduced the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act in the House, which would “codify into law a “speed limiter” rule that has been under consideration for more than a decade.”
Earlier this year, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in partnership with safety group Road Safe America, sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling for transportation officials to enact a rule requiring speed limiter devices on all vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds. The ATA’s official policy supports a maximum set speed of 70 m.p.h. in trucks equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control. In trucks without those safety features, the ATA supports a maximum set speed of 65 m.p.h.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) opposes any attempt to require speed limiters, arguing that they “increase congestion and speed differentials between trucks and cars, which ultimately lead to more crashes. Additionally, arbitrary speed limits make it difficult for truck drivers to switch lanes to accommodate merging traffic at entrance ramps – or to merge themselves.”
OOIDA also says that speed limiters give an unfair advantage to larger carriers over small business truckers.
*A previous version of this article erroneously stated that the ATA supports possible mandated speed limits under 65 m.p.h.