The New Speed Limiter Rule Has Arrived

Some may say that no one really asked the truck drivers themselves, but it appears their industry association and the Department of Transportation (DOT) agree on one thing: it’s time for heavy-duty commercial trucks and buses to slow it down.

It ‘s something we’ve been talking about for some time, but now it’s come to fruition. Federal safety regulators finally released their joint lovemaking proposal mandating that heavy-duty vehicles be equipped with speed-limiting devices.

How it all Started

The new rule is the direct result of a 10-year long push by both trucking and safety groups – unlikely partners on this issue.  The DOT and NHTSA stated that they feel the change will save lives, reduce emissions and increase energy conservation.

The specific verbiage of the proposal requires that all new trucks, buses or passenger vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 pounds must have speed limiters built into them. The limiters should be designed to keep the vehicles within the range of 60 to 68 mph. Specifically, a speed has not been set up yet because the agencies want to get public input before making the final decision.

The rule would also require vehicles – at the point of manufacturing or sale – to have the speed limiter device pre-installed and set to the specified speed. The devices should also have a way to read the vehicle’s current, and two previous, speed settings.

Furthermore, the FMCSA has proposed that motor carriers operating vehicles with speed limiting devices keep the devices installed for the vehicle’s entire service life, at least if they are participating in interstate commerce.

This means the proposal would likely impact long-hail trucks, buses, garbage trucks and other forms of refuse and construction haulers. What this doesn’t mean is that your oversize diesel Chevy Suburban or large conversion van won’t be impacted.

The Industry Weighs In

Although the trucking industry used to be resistant to implementing speed limiting devices, some have now gotten on board with the government’s decision. Specifically, trucking groups want the speed to limited to 65 mph.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) put out a statement saying, “We know the cliche’ ‘speed kills’ is true when it comes to driving.”

Their statement then went on to point out that a full third of all vehicle crashes and a fourth of all truck crashes have speed as a major factor. Thus, keeping large trucks limited in their speed could have a lot of safety benefits. The fact is, even small increases in a heavy truck’s speed can exponentially increase the damage at force of impact in the case of an accident.

As the DOT put it, after reviewing the data, they concluded that reducing a heavy duty vehicle’s speed would decrease crash severity, injuries and fatalities. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx also pointed out that the limit would reduce fuel emissions and up to $1 billion a year in fuel costs.

Historical Context

The genesis of this debate can be traced way back to 2006, when the ATA petitioned the federal government to mandate speed limiters on all large commercial vehicles. They asked at that time the limit be set to 65 mph as well.

Then, by May of 2014, the NPRM was created, with the ATA hailing it as a “potential step forward for safety.” They did, however, through a slight jab out there when they stated how pleased they were that the agencies set up the rule a mere 10 years after the trucking industry asked for it.

The ATA also pointed out that many fleets are already using speed limiters voluntarily. Not only are they finding safety, fuel efficiency and lifespan benefits, adding the devices is of negligible cost.

Meanwhile, the Owner-Operator Independant Drivers Association calls this idea a “dangerous mandate.” They contend that there are plenty of situations in which a truck driver might need to accelerate in order to avoid danger.

With the DOT seeking public comment, we’ll see how people weigh in. If you want to add your voice, you have up to 60 days after the rule has been published. Comments can be addressed using specific DOT docket numbers. They are NHTSA-2016-0087 and FMCSA 2014-008. You can find the Federal eRulemaking Portal by clicking or tapping here.