Speed limiter proposal incites nearly 16,000 comments
July 19, 2022
Well, round one of the speed limiter debate is over.
The public comment period regarding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal to require speed limiters on most heavy-duty trucks ended Monday, July 18. As of the morning of July 19, FMCSA’s online docket was showing nearly 16,000 submitted comments.
A significant majority of the comments came from truck drivers who are opposed to a mandate.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has fought against a speed limiter mandate for years, filed its formal comments on July 18.
“Professional truck drivers strongly object to any speed limiter mandate for several other reasons based on their own experiences,” OOIDA wrote in comments signed by President Todd Spencer. “Speed limiters take control of the truck away from drivers, denying them the ability to use the truck’s capabilities to avoid accidents and unsafe road and traffic conditions. Speed limiters increase driver stress and make drivers more fatigued because in order to complete the schedule expected of them they must operate additional hours under the hours-of-service rules.”
FMCSA issued an advance notice of supplemental rulemaking in May. The proposal asked for feedback regarding a potential speed limiter mandate on most commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 or more. Although the notice didn’t set a specific speed, previous proposals have targeted such speeds as 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour.
Now that the comments on the supplemental notice are in, FMCSA’s next step would be to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking.
Reasoning for proposal
As part of the justification for the mandate, FMCSA cited 2019 stats indicating that there were nearly 900 fatal crashes involving large trucks in posted speed limits of 70 miles or more.
However, the statistic provides little to no insight as to how much a speed limiter mandate would help in these crashes. The agency doesn’t know the traveling speeds of the large trucks involved in the crashes nor if reducing the speed to one of the proposed top speeds would have prevented the fatality. The agency also doesn’t know how many of the trucks already were speed-limited.
Without knowing how fast the trucks and cars were going in these crashes, the statistic fails to show justification for such a significant mandate.
To that point, there were about 600 more large-truck-related fatal crashes in 2019 that occurred in speed limits of 50 and 55 mph. Again, without knowing the traveling speeds, the statistic informs little on the benefits of a speed limiter mandate.
OOIDA says that slowing trucks down to 65 mph while driving in a 75 or 85 mph zone, could encourage truckers to drive faster through construction zones and inclement weather in order to try to make up time. While a truck limited to 65 mph would prevent it from traveling the 75 mph speed limit, it wouldn’t stop trucks from going 65 mph through a 45 mph zone or on icy roads.
“They must also operate at the maximum allowed speed for more of those hours, or operate faster than permitted on local roads where the speed limit is lower than the limited speed set on the truck,” OOIDA wrote. “Many drivers have expressed concerns about elephant races and their impact on the motoring public. On highways with different speed limits for commercial trucks than for other vehicles, speed limiters create unintended running blockades that increase frustration and road rage among noncommercial drivers. Those drivers react in aggressive and unpredictable ways to get around slower trucks, making roads less safe.”
The Association also points the potential dangers of drastic speed differentials. The United States has speed zones as fast as 85 mph in some areas. Considering that cars often push the speed limit by another 5 mph or so, a speed limiter mandate of 60 mph could force trucks to travel 30 mph slower than the flow of traffic.
The OOIDA Foundation points to research from Steven Johnson and the University of Arkansas that says the frequency of interactions with other vehicles increases 227% when traveling 10 mph below the speed of traffic.
“Speed limiters on trucks will result in two different speed limits on roads with higher speed limits than the engine control unit setting,” The Association wrote. “OOIDA has worked with various states for decades to eliminate state laws that established differential speed limits for trucks and other vehicles on state and federal highways. OOIDA members have reported that operating on roads with split speed limits is dangerous, adding to driver stress and fatigue. This is because they need to be alert to more interactions with other vehicles and a constantly changing traffic dynamic.”
Although most of the comments were in opposition, it is important to note that there are organizations and individuals who want to make a speed limiter mandate a reality.
A coalition of safety groups are among those who want to slow trucks down on the highways.
The current proposal would be limited to trucks with a gross vehicle weight of at least 26,001 pounds. Safety groups want the mandate to speed limit Class 3-6 trucks as well. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Truck Safety Coalition, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers filed joint comments to FMCSA.
“Crashes involving CMVs remain far too high and are a significant threat to public safety,” the safety groups wrote. “Including Class 3-6 trucks in the (rulemaking) would help to reduce the injury and death toll inflicted on the public from these tragedies.”
FMCSA’s current notice does not determine a top speed for trucks. But the safety groups are pushing for trucks to be limited to 60 mph.
“In order to fulfill its mission to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses, FMCSA must promptly complete this rulemaking to require the use of speed limiting technology on CMVs set at a maximum speed of 60 mph,” the safety groups wrote.
FMCSA will review the thousands of comments before deciding what to do next. A previous speed limiter proposal was shelved for years.
For now, FMCSA’s speed limiter proposal remains in its long-term actions. A notice of proposed rulemaking would likely hit the Federal Register in the summer of 2023. LL