FMCSA Gives Truck Speed Limiter Rule the Green Light (Again)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a notice of supplemental proposed rulemaking on May 4, 2022 (87 FR 26317).  This proposed rule is part of the regulatory hokey-pokey between administrations: the Obama Administration put it in, the Trump Administration took it out, and now the Biden Administration is putting it in again. 

The initial proposed rulemaking was a joint effort between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the FMCSA.   The FMCSA will be acting alone under the new proposed rulemaking, although the FMCSA will consult with NHTSA and there may still be a companion regulation from NHTSA if necessary, to implement aspects of a speed limiter rule that are beyond the FMCSA’s authority. 

The proposed rule would require motor carriers operating large trucks (those with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 lbs) that are equipped with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) capable of governing the maximum speed, to limit the truck to a speed to be determined by the rulemaking.  ECUs have been common on most new trucks for about the past 20 years. 

The safety community generally would like to see a speed limiter rule, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) put speed limiters on its most wanted list for 2021.  Opinions within the trucking industry on speed limiters are mixed. 

Generally, large trucking companies support a speed limiter rule, and many impose such restrictions already because of the safety benefits and fuel savings.  This makes regulation less necessary because speed limiting is being conducted voluntarily, although it would level the playing field between carriers that self-impose speed limiters and those who do not. 

On the other end of the spectrum, independent drivers, represented by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) opposes speed limiters, citing speed differentials between trucks and other traffic as a safety risk.  Independent drivers are typically paid by the mile, not for their time, so there is also a concern that a speed limiter rule could act as a de facto pay cut.  However, if the amount of time required to complete a trip increases, it is reasonable to expect that drivers will require that they be paid more per trip in order to take a load, and thus it is reasonable to think that a speed limiter rule would lead to a per-mile pay increase that would generally offset the potential pay impact of the rule. 

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is comprised of trucking companies of all sizes and its last position on a speed limiter rule, which was from 2019, likewise represents a middle-ground approach.  Per its 2019 policy, it supports a limit of 70 mph for trucks with Automatic Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control, and a limit of 65 mph for all other large trucks, but opposes limits lower than 65 mph. 

Comments are being accepted until July 5, 2022.  

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