Spear Assails Speed-Limiter Proposal as 'Flawed'

Spear by John Sommers II for Transport Topics
LAS VEGAS — American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear sharply criticized a proposed federal speed-limiter rule for new heavy trucks as “flawed” largely because it would create differential speeds on the nation’s highways.

“Proposing a rule that does not take into account the various differentials in speed between what this rule proposes and what state speed limits are is dangerous,” Spear said at an Oct. 4 news conference at ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition here. “The agency has a responsibility to study it, to provide data, to come to a consensus about one speed and one national limit, not three, and no national limit.”

The proposal, published Sept. 7 jointly by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Administration, does not specify a speed that will be adopted in a final rule but suggests that setting the limiters to 60, 65 or 68 would save lives and reduce fuel use.

The devices eventually would need to be capable of verification by regulators or law enforcement via onboard diagnostics. The rule does not require that the limiters be tamper-proof.

FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling declined comment on the proposal.

“Right now, we really can’t talk about it because it’s in the notice-of-proposed-rulemaking stages,” Darling told Transport Topics. “We’re looking to get comments. We’ve got 2,400 comments already. We want as many comments as possible.”

Darling said the two agencies are considering expanding the comment period by as much as two months. ATA asked for a 30-day extension via letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

ATA initially petitioned the agency in 2006, requesting speed limiters be set for all heavy trucks at 68 mph, but in 2008 the federation endorsed a national speed limit of 65 mph for all vehicles, not just trucks.

Spear said the limiter rule has been the subject of “robust discussion” during the four days of MCE.

He said ATA’s policy position will not change in the “foreseeable future,” but that the federation will provide comment on the rule prior to the Nov. 7  deadline.

“I find it rather curious that the administration waited nearly eight years,” Spear said. “We’ve had this policy in petition and we’ve testified on the Hill on this issue over the course of 10 years. They waited for eight years, the administration, to put forth this proposal.”

Spear added: “What is this proposal? Is this really a proposal? It’s three speed limits, not one. It has no data, no studies, nothing to back it. It has no national cap for limit to address the differential that now exists, or would exist, or would we find one effective between what state speeds are, and what our trucks would be governed at.”

“In my opinion this rule is dangerous, as proposed.”

Spear said the nation cannot afford to “elevate risk to the motoring public.”