Trucking industry split over proposed speed limiter regulation coming in 2023

Federal regulators are working on a proposal that would create a truck speed limit using electronic engine devices in a proposed rule anticipated in 2023.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a notice of intent to solicit comments that the agency will use to inform a supplementary notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM), which will include a proposal to amend the regulations and set a speed limit. It would affect trucks weighing more than 26,001 pounds.

The top speed is in flux. Whatever it is, it would maintain that setting for the service life of the vehicle, the agency said.

Leading trucking officials of national and multi-regional carriers by and large backed the plan. But the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) reiterated its long-standing opposition to any mandatory devices to limit speed.

“I think it’s a good idea and so does our safety group,” Chuck Hammel, president of Pitt Ohio, the nation’s 15th-largest LTL carrier, told LM

When Pitt Ohio talks about truck safety, it is worth listening. Pitt Ohio has won the prestigious American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) President’s Trophy in the Over 100 Million Miles category.  This marks the seventh time PITT OHIO has received this award, winning every year the company has been eligible.  

“We have had speed limiters on our trucks for many years,” Hammel said. “They are set at 67 MPH. We feel the slower everyone drives the safer the road will be.”

Officially, the American Trucking Associations has not taken a position yet on the measure. But ATA President and CEO Chris Spear welcomed the FMCSA’s updated plan for a speed limiter rule.

“We intend to thoroughly review FMCSA’s proposal, and we look forward to working with the agency to shape a final rule that is consistent with our policy supporting the use of speed limiters in conjunction with numerous other safety technologies,” Spear said in a statement.

The divide is with the OOOIDA. On the surface, OOIDA says it opposes mandating speed limiters, because they would lead to increased interactions between trucks and passenger cars, thereby decreasing safety.

But privately, industry sources say OOIDA’s opposition is more economic, than safety. That’s because the vast majority of all long-haul truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by their time. So any decrease in miles driven is essentially a pay cut for drivers.

Last January, the National Roadway Safety Strategy unveiled by the Department of Transportation (DOT) cited speed as a significant factor in fatal crashes. Use of speed management could reduce serious injuries and fatalities, according to FMCSA. The National Transportation Safety Board listed speed limiters on its Most Wanted list in 2021.

“The number of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes in which speed is listed as a contributing factor is unacceptable,” FMCSA said. “A carrier-based approach could provide the opportunity to compel fleets that are not currently using speed limiters to slow down their CMVs within a relatively short period.”

Federal regulators considered both a carrier- and truck manufacturer-based approach to speed limiters in 2016, when FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly proposed a speed limiter rulemaking.

But under the Trump administration, regulators within the DOT and other agencies backed off any stringent proposals. To date, Ontario and Quebec are the only two jurisdictions in North America to require speed limiters set at around 68 MPH (105 KMH). Those laws have been in place since 2009.

Speed limiters already are in place on rural federal interstate highways in 10 states. They currently restrict large trucks to a maximum speed of 65 mph or lower, while cars are permitted to drive faster.

In the 33 European countries, the average maximum speed limit for large trucks is 50 mph. The speed limit for cars is 70 mph, a speed differential of 20 mph, again with no reported safety issues, according to safety groups.

Since 2019, the Trucking Alliance, an industry-based safety coalition, has been pushing for mandatory speed limiters set at 65 mph.

“I’ve spent my entire career in the trucking industry. There’s simply no legitimate reason for an 80-foot tractor trailer to be driven within a few feet of other motorists, at speeds of 70 or 75 or 80 miles per hour.” 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, said in a statement posted on the Trucking Alliance website.

About the Author

John D. Schulz

John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. John is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis.

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