A flub by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now has some people in the trucking industry speculating that the agency is planning a 68-mph top speed for mandatory speed limiters.
In the Department of Transportation’s September 2023 Report on DOT Significant Rulemakings, FMCSA said it would propose requiring owners or operators of trucks made after model year 2003 to set the engine control unit to a maximum speed of 68 mph.
But the agency quickly pulled that report late on Sept. 25, saying the information was inaccurate and that any specifics about the speed limiter mandate proposal still have to go through the regulatory approval process.
The 68-mph speed limit is just one of the options being considered for the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking that the agency plans to publish before the end of the year, according to the agency. The FMCSA said no decision has been made on the maximum speed limit that will be proposed.
A revised significant rulemaking report was posted on Sept. 26 and also included updates on:
- New-entrant knowledge test
- Broker and freight forwarder financial responsibility
- Automated driving systems
- Automatic emergency braking
- Safety fitness procedures
About the Speed Limiter Mandate Proposal
This year's supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on mandatory speed limiters is a follow up to a 2016 proposed rule from FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That 2016 proposal never made it to a final regulation, and never came up with a proposed maximum speed, although the proposal discussed possible limits of 60, 65, and 68 mph.
The new rulemaking is being done in consultation with NHTSA.
The proposal will consider whether carriers operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce be required to limit the vehicle to a speed to be determined by the rulemaking and to maintain that setting for the service life of the vehicle.
The regulation would apply to commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 26,000 pounds (whichever is greater) that are equipped with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) capable of governing the maximum speed.
This proposal differs from the 2016 one in that it would specifically apply to motor carriers; the previous proposal would have regulated truck manufacturers.
Arguments For and Against Mandatory Truck Speed Limiters
Organizations that oppose the speed-limiter mandate include:
- American Farm Bureau Federation
- Livestock Marketing Association
- Montana Trucking Association
- National Association of Small Trucking Companies
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
- Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
- Towing and Recovery Association of America.
- Western States Trucking Association.
“Forcing trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles and leads to more crashes. It’ll be like an obstacle course for passenger vehicle drivers on our highways,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer in a statement from the association in response to the idea that trucks would be limited to 68 mph.
“This isn’t safe for truckers, but especially not safe for passenger vehicle drivers sharing the road with trucks. The unintended consequences of this misguided regulation will cost innocent lives.”
Canada already has speed limiter laws in Ontario and Quebec, and critics say it’s common to have situations where one speed-limited truck trying to pass another effectively blocks the lanes for passing cars, causing road rage, brake checks, and animosity between car and truck drivers.
More than one bill has been introduced in Congress attempting to block mandatory speed limiters, but they have not gained much traction.
In response to such a bill in May, the American Trucking Associations sent an email to members explaining that the association’s official policy supports 70 mph limiters in trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, but 65 mph for trucks without.
“We continue to fight efforts by anti-truck groups to pursue a speed-limiter rule setting speeds in the low 60s,” ATA said. “Anti-truck advocates pushed to include that in the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and ATA fought successfully to keep those provisions out of the final bill.”
A coalition of trucking companies, consumer safety advocates and other trucking safety stakeholders wrote a letter opposing the legislation, noting that “this proposal comes at a time of historically high road fatalities with nearly 43,000 people killed on U.S. roads in 20021, and 12,330 of these deaths involved speeding.”
Since 2009, truck crash deaths have increased by 71%, according to the letter, signed by the Truck Safety Coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Trucking Alliance, Road Safe America, and the National Safety Council.
Trucking Alliance members collectively operating 62,000 trucks, and 98% of them voluntarily use speed limiter technology. The maximum speed settings vary among the fleets, ranging from 61 mph to 70 mph.
U.S. Department of Transportation research has concluded that trucks using speed limiters had a relevant crash rate approximately half that of trucks not using speed limiters. The National Transportation Safety Board regularly includes requiring the use of speed limiters in its “Most Wanted List.”
“Rulemaking requiring the use of truck speed limiters has been delayed over 20 times I the past 10 years,” according to the letter.
A companion bill was introduced in the Senate in August.
Updates on Other Rulemakings
Speed limiters weren’t the only regulatory proposal included in the report.
This rulemaking would consider methods for ensuring a new applicant carrier is knowledgeable about the applicable safety requirements before being granted new entrant authority. The agency is considering whether to implement a proficiency examination as part of its revised New Entrant Safety Assurance Process as well as other alternatives.
This rulemaking responds to issues raised in a petition from a 14-year-old petition from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety regarding new entrant applicant knowledge.
The FMCSA has been working on tightening new carrier entrant standards for the entirety of its existence. In the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, which created the FMCSA, Congress also ordered DOT to draft a rule that establishes minimum requirements for would-be truckers, to make sure they understand the safety rules.
The first version went into effect in 2003, but by 2006, FMCSA proposed stricter requirements, and issued a final rule in 2008. Under that rule, a newly registered trucking or bus company would automatically fail its safety audit if it violated any one of 16 essential federal regulations during the 18-month safety monitoring period.
But the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety filed a petition for reconsideration in early 2009, alleging that the FMCSA did not go far enough in terms of safety. So FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking asking for comments from the industry on whether the agency should require new carrier applicants to pass a safety examination.
Now it appears the FMCSA is revisiting this rule. The agency is projecting publication of an supplemental advance notice of proposed rulemaking in July 2024.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed changes to freight broker and freight forwarder financial responsibility requirements, addressing the problem of brokers that don’t pay motor carriers.
Previously, FMCSA implemented a Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP21) requirement to increase the financial security amount for brokers from $25,000 to $75,000 for household brokers and from $10,000 to $75,000 for all other property brokers and, for the first time, established financial security requirements for freight forwarders.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in January of this year. FMCSA is projecting a final rule to be published in March 2024.
FMCSA is considering amending some Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to ensure the safe introduction of automated driving systems-equipped commercial motor vehicles onto the nation's roadways.
The proposed changes to the CMV operations, inspection, repair, and maintenance regulations prioritize safety and security, promote innovation, foster a consistent regulatory approach to ADS-equipped CMVs, and recognize the difference between human operators and ADS.
An advance notice of proposed rulemaking was published in 2019 but did not result in a rule. Given the advances in the technology in the past few years, FMCSA issued a supplemental ANPRM in February and is aiming for a proposed rule by the end of the year.
This joint rulemaking of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FMCSA will finalize the proposal to require and/or standardize equipment performance for automatic emergency braking systems on heavy trucks. The rulemaking is expected to establish performance standards and motor carrier maintenance requirements for AEB systems on heavy trucks and accompanying test procedures for measuring the performance of the AEB systems in NHTSA compliance testing.
The notice of proposed rulemaking was published in July, and the comment period recently ended. FMCSA anticipates a final rule in April 2024.
In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published Aug. 29, FMCSA asked for input on how its safety fitness determination process could be more effectively used identify unfit motor carriers and remove them from the roadways.
FMCSA asked for public comment about the use of available safety data, including inspection data, in determining carrier fitness to operate. The agency would wants public input on possible changes to the current three-tier safety fitness rating structure. The action would also include a review of the list of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that the agency uses in its safety fitness rating methodology. The notice is open for comments through Oct. 30.