The Speed Limiter Mandate Debate

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has published its monthly update on what the rule making landscape is going to look like in 2015.

It’s been no secret that the agency has continually pushed out dates for proposed rules, despite assurances that they’re in the “final stages.” Looks like this year will be no different.

There are five rules that the agency has set final publication dates for:

  • Speed limiter mandate
  • Electronic logging device mandate
  • Safety fitness determination rule
  • Driver coercion prohibition rule
  • CDL drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule

Over the coming months, as we approach the final publication dates, we’re going to take a look at each rule individually. We’ll explain what the rule is, who’s for and against it, and what it means for the industry.

First up is the speed limiter mandate, set for a final publication date of April 16.

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The Speed Limiter Mandate

This rule is designed to function exactly as the name implies. It would specifically apply to trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds and traveling on roads that have a posted top speed of at least 55 mph. While the DOT has not commented on what speed these vehicles will be governed at, prior proposals have tossed around a limit of 68 mph.

Heavy trucks will be restricted by what is known as an Electronic Control Module (ECM), or “governor.” These devices use a series of electronic sensors to calibrate the vehicle’s speed and feed information to the engine’s computer. Once the vehicle reaches a pre-determined speed, the computer restricts the air-flow and amount of fuel being delivered to the engine.

Who Supports It?

Nine carriers, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), and the advocacy group Road Safe America brought the original petition requesting a speed limiter mandate back in 2006.

Their petition highlighted studies showing that large trucks moving at high rates of speed have far longer stopping distances. Included in the petition is a study reporting that 73 percent of fatal accidents involving large trucks happen on roads with a posted speed limit of 55 mph or higher.

They go on to state that a speed limiter mandate would eliminate approximately 1,100 fatal crashes per year and that investment cost for carriers would be negligible, considering most large trucks already have inactive limiters on board.

The petition also included a piece of DOT research entitled “The Large Truck Causation Study.” In the study the DOT looked into the major reasons for fatal accidents involving large trucks and found the following:

  • Loss of vehicle control, such as a tire blow out
  • Vehicle failure, such as an engine problem or loose hood
  • Another motor vehicle entering the truck’s lane
  • Poor road conditions, either from bad road maintenance or inclement weather.
  • Traveling too fast for road conditions
  • Cargo shifting
  • Lane drifting
  • Driving off the road
  • Improper navigational maneuvers, such as during turns or going through intersections
  • Fast approach to a stopped vehicle
  • Highway obstructions
  • Driver fatigue

In their final argument the alliance of industry and advocacy groups pointed to this study and deduced that many of these causes can be directly related to high rates of speed. They advocate that by installing limiters, these risks could be mitigated.

Who’s Against it?

While most of the industry and interest groups come in on the side of the rule, there are those who don’t. One of the most vocal critics has been the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

The OOIDA argues that not allowing speed differentials will actually lead to more collisions. After all, how will trucks that are all governed similarly pass each other on the road? Since most studies show that car drivers losing patience with slow moving trucks cause most of the fatal collisions involving large trucks, ensuring the roads are filled with slow moving trucks does nothing to decrease the problem.

If successful, they state that the proposal could also open up new avenues of inquiry and opportunity in civil and insurance litigation.

They also note that large trucks are not over-represented in fatal accidents. In fact, large trucks only represent 3 percent of all vehicles on the road, yet they drive 9 percent of all miles driven and are involved in only 11 percent of all collisions resulting in a fatality.

With everyone having taken a side and the arguments coming into clear focus, all eyes rest squarely on the government. Will the rule actually be published in April, or will we see yet another delay? Furthermore, what will the final limiter speed be? Stay tuned!

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[…] Speed Limiters – This one has been a contumacious one, but this Trucking Alliance supports a maximum speed for commercial motor vehicles of 65 mph. This goes hand-in-hand with a proposed rule already put forth by the FMCSA. […]