Regulatory Developments, Transportation

Speed-Limiter Rulemaking Among Top Industry Concerns

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposal for requirements for speed-limiting devices on commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) is among the top concerns in the trucking industry, according to a new American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) report.

On October 22, the ATRI released its 18th annual top industry issues report, identifying leading industry concerns, such as fuel prices; driver shortages; truck parking; driver compensation; the economy; and, for the first time, speed limiters.

The FMCSA announced on May 4 it is considering a rule that would apply to CMVs built after 2003. A speed-limiting requirement 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, preventing engine or other vehicle damage.

Speed limiters ranked ninth overall among industry concerns and fifth among commercial driver respondents, according to the ATRI.

Fuel prices were ranked as the top industry concern this year, replacing driver shortages, which had been the top concern for 5 years in a row. Driver shortages were the second-ranked issue this year, followed by the lack of available truck parking. Rounding out the top five concerns this year were driver compensation and the economy. 

“High fuel prices and finding drivers were two of our industry’s biggest challenges–challenges made more difficult by the economy and the continued lack of truck parking,” American Trucking Associations Chairman Harold A. Sumerford Jr. said in a statement.

According to the ATRI’s report, the top 10 trucking industry concerns this year are the following:

  • Fuel prices;
  • Driver shortages;
  • Truck parking;
  • Driver compensation;
  • The economy;
  • Driver delays at customers’ facilities, which affect operator hours-of-service compliance;
  • Driver retention;
  • Compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA);
  • Speed limiters; and
  • Lawsuit abuse reform, formerly known as “tort reform.”

According to the ATRI, the FMCSA notice about a speed-limiter rulemaking generated over 14,500 comments in response to the Federal Register notice. Proposed strategies to address the FMCSA rulemaking include the following:

  • Quantify the impact of car-truck speed differentials on industry safety and productivity. According to research conducted by the ATRI and a professor at the University of Arkansas, speed differentials can increase vehicle interactions and lead to a greater potential for crashes.
  • Ensure that any future rulemaking on speed limiters is based on real-world data inputs from industry operations. The last speed-limiter study to examine real-world data inputs from industry operations was published in 2012, according to the ATRI.
  • Support research to better understand truck crash increases by causal factors and vehicle type. Approximately 12 percent of respondents believe more research is needed to identify truck crash causal factors and appropriate countermeasures.

CSA, the FMCSA’s safety management system, continues to be a perennial industry concern, according to the ATRI. A 2017 National Academies’ review included recommendations for improving CSA scoring to better reflect a motor carrier’s risk profile. The FMCSA has yet to implement a recommended Item Response Theory (IRT) approach.

Strategies proposed by the ATRI for addressing CSA concerns include the following:

  • Working with the FMCSA to update its carrier prioritization methodology, improve its accuracy, and enhance transparency in CSA.  
  • Advocating for the FMCSA to regularly review and evaluate the list of crash types available for reclassification as nonpreventable.
  • Encouraging the FMCSA to improve internal processes for reviewing Requests for Data Review (RDRs) to improve turnaround time for RDRs related to the Crash Preventability Determination Program­. The FMCSA’s Crash Preventability Determination Program allows for review of 16 specific crash types through an RDR. According to the ATRI, there continues to be frustration among motor carriers with the time it takes for data reviews.

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