On May 4, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed establishing requirements for maintaining and using speed-limiting devices on commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) (87 Federal Register (FR) 26317).
A speed-limiting regulation would rely on the use of electronic engine control units (ECUs) capable of governing maximum CMV speeds. ECUs have been routinely installed in CMVs after 2003 to govern vehicle speeds and prevent engine or other vehicle damage, and the FMCSA is considering a rule that would apply to CMVs built after 2003.
The American Trucking Associations, which represent motor carriers, expressed support for the rulemaking, while the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) criticized the rulemaking, saying a speed-limiter requirement actually would increase highway crashes.
“Limiting trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles which can lead to more crashes,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said in a statement.
“Studies and research have already proven what we were all taught long ago in driver’s ed classes, that traffic is safest when vehicles all travel at the same relative speed,” he added.
On September 7, 2016, the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a joint notice of proposed rulemaking for speed-limiter requirements (81 FR 61942). The NHTSA proposed creating a federal motor vehicle standard requiring speed-limiting devices on multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, and school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 pounds. The FMCSA proposed establishing a requirement that motor carriers maintain speed-limiting devices for the service life of a CMV.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies initiated the rulemaking in 2016 to reduce the severity of heavy vehicle crashes and reduce the injuries and fatalities resulting from such crashes.
The fall 2021 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions listed both the FMCSA and the NHTSA speed-limiter rulemakings, but the FMCSA is moving forward with a separate rulemaking in consultation with the NHTSA.
The FMCSA believes the separate rulemaking will avoid stakeholder confusion, placing the compliance requirements on motor carriers. The FMCSA will consult with the NHTSA during the rulemaking, and the NHTSA will evaluate the need for a CMV manufacturers’ requirement.
The FMCSA also is considering a retrofit requirement for older vehicles. The agency’s questions for stakeholders include:
- What percentage of current CMV fleets use speed-limiting devices, and what maximum speeds are generally set?
- What equipment or tools are needed to adjust or program ECUs, and how long would adjustment or reprogramming take?
- Can ECU adjustments or reprogramming be accomplished where CMVs typically are stored, or must adjustments or reprogramming be done at dealerships?
- Should the FMCSA revisit the 2003 model year as a baseline for the rule, and should the FMCSA consider adding a retrofit requirement?
The OOIDA argued that most crashes involving CMVs occur in areas with speed limits below 55 miles per hour (mph).
“What the motoring public should know is that when they are stuck behind trucks on long stretches of highway, those trucks are often limited to a speed well under the posted speed limit,” Spencer noted.