The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has long been at odds with trucking groups over a certain proposal it has raised over the years, dating as far back to 2016.
One of the DOT’s branching agencies, the FMCSA is the frontline regulator of the trucking industry and often wields its vested power over matters of highway safety.
The FMCSA’s proposed Speed Limiters Notice of Intent aims to mandate a set speed limit for commercial trucks (Class 7 and 8) as well for enforcement of installing devices (speed limiters) on these vehicles to govern their speeds at or under the said speed limit.
The proposed rulemaking for mandatory limiters has been floated for seven years and, on September 25, stated the regulation, if enacted, would cap heavy-duty trucks at 68 mph. However, in a stunning twist of events, the agency has now withdrawn this number from the verbiage.
In fact, the FMCSA now says a speed limit won’t be determined until the time of rulemaking, which is planned for publication on December 29.
In other words, trucking groups have no direct read on what speed limit the agency will be standardizing for commercial fleets.
Speed limiters divide the industry
Regulatory enforcement of speed limiters has divided trucking groups. While the FMCSA reasons enactment of these devices as a step to reduce roadway accidents and casualties, a key industry association says the measure will do the opposite.
OOIDA, an owner-operator interest group, stated: “Forcing trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles and leads to more crashes…This isn’t safe for truckers, but especially not safe for passenger vehicle drivers sharing the road with trucks…this misguided regulation will cost innocent lives.”
Other organizations, notably the American Trucking Associations, are more receptive to the rulemaking. The ATA has publicly supported federal speed limits in the past, including a 65 mph cap for tractor-trailers and 70 mph max for trucks equipped with safety systems.
ATA frontman Chris Spear noted: “These are all things that have not only improved performance but benefits to fuel efficiency and certainly have not compromised safety.”
The ATA has admitted its warmed up to limiters over the years, especially as operational advancements, like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, have evolved into assets for better fuel efficiency.
Throughout the industry, some carriers and companies already have speed limiter bylaws in place. For instance, retail giant Walmart caps its fleets at 65 mph.
Last year, the FMCSA held a public comment period about this proposal. Over a span of six weeks, the agency received more than 15,500 comments.
Individual truck drivers voiced an array of opinions, some for and some against the rulemaking.
“I see a lot of truck drivers speeding out there…I am a truck driver myself and we are governed at 68 [mph] where I work. I think that’s a pretty good speed for safety and the motoring public,” one driver wrote in favor.
“We get cut off constantly [with limiters] by irate drivers because we passed someone and took too long…also less speed makes it more dangerous to merge or get out of an emergency vehicle’s way,” another driver wrote in opposition.
Overall, truck drivers, particularly long-haul ones, are more inclined to be against the rulemaking as many are paid by the mile, not by time. If they’re limited to a certain speed, they’ll cover less distance over a period of time thus accruing less pay.
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