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September 5, 2016 4:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: A Welcome Proposal

This Editorial appears in the Sept. 5 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

After 10 years of deliberation, two agencies of the Department of Transportation have finally published a proposal that would limit the maximum speed of the largest commercial vehicles to a rate yet to be determined.

We are pleased the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have taken this joint step to make U.S. roads safer.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind summed it up well: “This is basic physics. Even small increases in speed have large effects on the force of impact. Setting the speed limit on heavy vehicles makes sense for safety and the environment.”

Currently, our major complaint is that this fairly simple mandate is taking such a long time: 10 years to get to a firm proposal, two months for public comments, crafting of a final rule and three years to implement a final rule.

There is always a lot of reason for caution when it comes to government regulation. Hours of service, FMCSA’s CSA program and environmental standards have all raised maddening compliance issues.

However, speed limiters and electronic logging devices are much easier to endorse for two reasons: First, the technologies mandated are well-tested, durable and broadly affordable. Second, they put all large trucks under the same simple rules, making it hard to cheat for competitive advantage.

This makes highways safer for trucks, cars and all of their drivers and passengers — without making daily operations more complex. That should be a rule that everyone could support.

“Speed is a major contributor to truck accidents, and by reducing speeds, we believe we can contribute to a reduction in accidents and fatalities on our highways,” said Chris Spear, president of American Trucking Associations.

“Carriers who already voluntarily use speed limiters have found significant safety, as well as fuel efficiency and equipment lifespan benefits with little to no negative impact on productivity,” Spear added.

The fuel-efficiency point is well-timed in that NHTSA and the Environmental Protection Agency are also trying to limit emissions of carbon dioxide from trucks. Slowing down is, far and away, the cheapest, easiest way to save on fuel.

Fuel and CO2 savings are just gravy, though. The real issue is safety. We support the FMCSA/NHTSA proposal on speed limits and hope to see it enacted as soon as reasonably possible.