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March 17, 2021

Will Speed Limiters be Legislated under Biden?

The jury is still out, but odds are that at least some of the regulatory activity involving the trucking industry that was not acted upon in the four years under the Trump administration will be considered by the Biden administration. That is possibly the case with the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019. The bill that includes speed limiter legislation is described on Congress.gov, the official website for U.S. federal legislative information presented by the Library of Congress, as follows:

 This bill directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to implement regulations to require (1) all new commercial motor vehicles with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more to be equipped with speed-limiting technology; (2) any existing speed-limiting technology already installed in such vehicles manufactured after December 31, 1992, to be used while in operation; and (3) the speed-limiting technology to be set to a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour, or 70 miles per hour with the use of adaptive cruise control systems and automatic emergency braking systems.

The NHTSA must also prescribe performance standards for speed-limiting technologies, automatic braking systems, and adaptive cruise control systems that reduce or mitigate collisions at speeds of not faster than 70 miles per hour.

“Speed remains the number one cause of truck accidents so I would expect the bill to be discussed and possibly become part of larger infrastructure legislation,” said David Heller, vice president of government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). “Modern engines already have the technology to set road speed limits electronically, and many fleets use that feature to help lower fuel consumption. The regulation would be simple to implement for that reason, and voluntary adoption would make it a non-issue for most of the industry.”

TCA, in fact, was one of the immediate proponents of the speed limiter legislation when it was introduced in the U.S. Senate at the end of 2019, and according to Heller it plans to continue that support if the idea is taken up by the new Congress.

“Since 2012, TCA has advocated for the speed of all electronically governed Class 7 and 8 trucks manufactured after 1992 to be limited at a maximum speed not to exceed 65 miles per hour,” he said. “TCA’s members have spoken in support of speed limiters, and we are using that focus to lend support to a bill that we feel could make significant safety strides for all motorists on the nation’s roadways.”

The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (Trucking Alliance) also supports legislation to limit the maximum speed of tractor trailers on the nation’s highways.

“The Trucking Alliance mission is to reduce and eventually eliminate all large truck fatalities and truck speed limiters are integral to achieving that objective,” said Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick USA in Little Rock, Ark., co-founder and president of the Trucking Alliance and also a former chairman of the American Trucking Associations.

Road Safe America is a supporter as well, noting that speed limiting capability is already on all but the oldest trucks so there is no capital cost to simply turn it on. The group also points out the majority of U.S. trucks already limit their top speed because it is safer and saves money on fuel.

Other industry groups, however, have opposed the idea. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) was among them, citing the danger caused by creating a speed differential between trucks and passenger vehicles.

The Trucking Alliance counters that argument, though, saying that a slower speed limit for trucks than the speed limit for cars does not compromise safety. It points out that on rural federal interstate highways, 10 states currently restrict large trucks to a maximum speed of 65 mph or lower, while cars are permitted to drive faster. In addition, in 33 countries in the European Union, the average maximum speed limit for large trucks is 50 mph, while the speed limit for cars is 70 mph, a speed differential of 20 mph with no reported safety issues.

Speed limiter legislation has a long history. A 2016 rulemaking notice on the subject came about 10 years after the American Trucking Associations and safety advocacy groups initially called for a rule requiring the use of limiters in commercial vehicles.

More recently, prior to the 2016 presidential election, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on speed limiters. No action was taken on the proposal during the Obama administration, and the Trump administration decided to remove the mandate from the list of the Department of Transportation’s priorities.

Now, with a new administration with new priorities in place, speed limiters could once again be a subject of discussion and debate in industry and government circles.

Source: American Trucker