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July 20, 2022 5:02 PM, EDT

Commenters Divided on FMCSA Plans to Mandate Speed Limiters

Traffic on a Kentucky interstateAmerican Trucking Associations favors a fixed speed of 70 mph for trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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Large motor carriers and their trade associations tend to express general support for plans by federal regulators to implement a speed limiter requirement for large trucks. On the other hand, independent owner-operators are overwhelmingly opposed.

In a sampling of the more than 15,000 public comments on an April 28 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration notice of intent to issue a speed limiter rule, a large majority of small truckers and drivers said limiting speeds would be unsafe and have a negative effect on their businesses.

After a two-month extension, the written comment period closed July 18.

American Trucking Associations said it generally supports speed limiters for Classes 7 and 8 trucks manufactured after 1992 to be set at a maximum of 65 mph. The federation favors a fixed speed of 70 mph for trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Most of its members already have their trucks speed-governed, ATA said.

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“ATA members, as well as public commenters, have voiced concerns related to ‘speed differentials’ that will arise by limiting the speed of some CMVs to a fixed maximum speed, whereas noncommercial passenger vehicles may travel well beyond the posted speed limits,” ATA wrote.

“ATA acknowledges the lack of data to investigate the consequences of speed differentials, and believes it is imperative that the agency provides data that addresses these legitimate concerns when finalizing a rule on speed-governing devices. ATA believes that unresolved concerns over speed differentials will delay any meaningful advancement in requiring speed-governing devices on commercial vehicles.”

The Truckload Carriers Association said it views the decision to mandate speed limiters “as a sensible next step in the ongoing effort to reduce accidents on our roadways and improve safety in the industry.”

“These devices were usually configured to provide drivers a time allowance — ranging from 30 minutes to one hour — to access higher speeds to safely pass other vehicles, when necessary,” TCA wrote.

C.R. England, J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. and UPS Inc. said their trucks have been speed-limited for years.

“While we are not advocating for or against a speed limiter rule and we do not have a position on the appropriate speed for such settings, we believe that speed limiter requirements should reflect the current state of technology that is already widely deployed,” the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association wrote.

“Requiring changes to existing technologies or, worse, requiring changes to technologies long out of production will provide little benefit compared to the significant cost and resource burden associated with any approach that necessitates programming beyond changing an existing parameter in existing software,” EMA added.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance wrote that it “does not currently have a position in support of or opposition to a federal speed limiter requirement for commercial motor vehicles.”

However, CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney told Transport Topics the reason for its neutral comment “is that we don’t have all of the information pertaining to what the enforcement protocols will be.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and hundreds, maybe thousands, of independent contractors and small truckers were vehemently opposed to requiring speed limiters.

OOIDA said they are “counterproductive to highway safety, will exacerbate supply chain challenges and won’t help retain or recruit drivers.”

“A speed limiter mandate will intensify ongoing supply chain disruptions,” the organization added. “Reducing the speed of trucks on many roads across the country will literally slow the movement of freight through the supply chain.”

According to a recent OOIDA member survey, about 23% currently use speed-limiting devices.

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“The use of speed limiters ignores the very real safety hazard of speed differentials and fails to account for the safety impacts when a 60, 65 or 68 mph limit is applied to a CMV while surrounding traffic are traveling speeds 10, 15 or even 20 mph faster,” the Livestock Marketing Association wrote. “This difference in speeds will cause more dangerous conditions for the motoring public.”

Alicia Theriot of San Angelo, Texas, wrote, “I fear for truck drivers and surrounding drivers who will be impeded by other drivers who are only limited to whether they obey the posted speed limit, causing an increase in accidents and increased road rage. There’s a speed limit for a reason. Limiters will cause more confusion and catastrophes to all drivers on the road.”

Jim Porter, of Jefferson City, Mo., wrote: “Cars already don’t like us on the roads. They won’t let us merge or change lanes, constantly cut us off, all because we are going slower than they are, anyway. How about turning it around and putting speed limiters on cars, since they are the ones causing most of the problems anyway.”