After nearly a decade- long push by trucking and safety advocates to put a speed-limit restriction on trucks and other commercial vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have jointly issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on August 26, 2016-which has not been officially published in the Federal Register, yet. Once published, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be seeking public comment on the rule for the 60 days following the NPRM’s official publication date. (Read NPRM Here)
Specifically, the NHTSA is proposing a new Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) requiring that each new multipurpose passenger vehicle, truck, bus and school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 26,000 pounds be equipped with a speed limiting device.
FMCSA is proposing a complementary Federal motor carrier safety regulation (FMCSR) requiring each commercial motor vehicle (CMV) meeting the GVWR cut-off weight limit discussed above, to be equipped with a speed limiting device meeting the requirements of the proposed FMVSS applicable to the vehicle at the time of manufacture. Motor carriers operating such vehicles in interstate commerce would be required to maintain the speed limiting devices for the service life of the vehicle.
According to DOT, limiting the speed of heavy vehicles would reduce the severity of crashes involving these vehicles and reduce the resulting fatalities and injuries. DOT said that implementing the safety proposal “could save lives and more than $1 billion in fuel costs each year.”
Big Industry Players’ Reactions
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) “hailed” the NPRM “as a potential step forward for safety.” The ATA President and CEO Chris Spear was quoted saying, the lobby was “pleased NHTSA and FMCSA have, almost 10 years after we first petitioned them, released this proposal to mandate the electronic limiting of commercial vehicle speeds. Speed is a major contributor to truck accidents and by reducing speeds, we believe we can contribute to a reduction in accidents and fatalities on our highways.”
On the other hand, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) responded to the NPRM by calling it a “dangerous mandate.” OOIDA contends that use of “such devices create speed differentials that lead to more crashes and promote road rage among other motorists.” OOID also emphasizes the importance of all vehicles traveling at the same relative speed.
Maximum Speed Limit
Of note, the regulatory body did not propose an actual maximum speed limit and merely discusses the benefits of setting the maximum speed at 60, 65, and 68- we anticipate this will be a large component of what the DOT is seeking feedback on during the public comment period.
I came across a poll on Overdrive’s website- Poll: If any, what top speed should the speed limiter rule require- 3,064 readers had cast their votes. (Link Here) 43.6% of voters were against the speed limiter requirement all together. Amongst the other votes cast there were, 18.47% for 70 mph; 18.18% for 75 mph; 10.87% for 80 mph; 4.08% for 68 mph; 2.45% for 65 mph; 0.91% for 60 mph; 1.34% other; and .1% didn’t know. Overdrive’s readership is predominantly Owner Operators. We would anticipate significantly different responses from an ATA membership poll. Clearly, there are very different schools of thought within the industry. Hopefully the most fact based direction, in terms of safety, will rise to the top and prevail.
As anyone in trucking knows, the regulations are seemingly never-ending. As members of the trucking industry ourselves, we always strongly encourage participation during public comment periods following a notice of proposed rulemaking. As a safety-minded community, those making the rules need to hear from the people who are seeing and living the day-today happenings on our roads.
Emily Littlefield is an associate attorney at Roberts Perryman. Emily’s practice focuses on transportation, insurance coverage and defense.
Roberts Perryman has been a leader in transportation defense for over 50 years with offices in St. Louis and Springfield, MO and Belleville, IL. http://www.robertsperryman.com