Federal regulators revive proposal to require speed limiters in heavy trucks

Federal regulators plan to propose setting a speed limit for trucks using electronic engine devices in a proposed rule expected in 2023.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a Notice of Intent to Seek Comments on Wednesday, which the agency will use to inform a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM), which will include a proposed change to the regulations and setting of a speed limit.

“The SNPRM will propose that motor carriers operating commercial vehicles (CVVs) in interstate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more ), whichever is greater, which are equipped with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) capable of managing the maximum speed are required to limit the CMV to a speed to be determined by the regulations and to maintain this setting of the ECU for the life of the vehicle,” the notice underlined.

The FMCSA proposes that commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more be equipped with electronic engine control units (ECUs) to limit them “to a speed to be determined by regulation and to maintain this ECU tuning for the life of the vehicle,” the notice reads.

A 30-day period for public comment and input regarding the adjustment or reprogramming of ECUs will begin following the publication of the FMCSA notice in the Federal Register, which is expected this week.

Truck speeds on the Biden administration’s radar

The National Highway Safety Strategy unveiled in January by the U.S. Department of Transportation cited speed as a major factor in fatal crashes and the use of speed management to help reduce serious injuries and fatalities, said FMCSA in a fact sheet accompanying the notice. The National Transportation Safety Board has put speed limiters on its 2021 most wanted list.

“The number of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents in which speed is listed as a contributing factor is unacceptable,” the FMCSA said. “A carrier-based approach could provide the opportunity to force fleets that do not currently use speed limiters to slow down their commercial vehicles in a relatively short period of time.”

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

NHTSA had proposed a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) requiring that every vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds – as manufactured and sold – have its device adjusted so as not to exceed a specified speed and equipped with a means of reading the truck’s current and previous speed settings. The FMCSA had proposed similar supplemental regulations, including requiring carriers to maintain the devices for the life of the truck.

The two agencies had planned a joint rulemaking update, according to an agenda released earlier this year. But the FMCSA has changed course and will instead move to separate carrier-based speed limiter regulation.

“The FMCSA believes that imposing the requirement on motor carriers will ensure compliance with the rule and potentially avoid confusion over who is liable,” according to the notice. “FMCSA will continue to consult with NHTSA in the development of this rule. If necessary, NHTSA will evaluate the need for additional regulatory action regarding VMC manufacturer requirements to address issues raised during implementation that go beyond the under the authority of the FMCSA.

Comments on the 2016 joint proposal revealed that ECUs have been installed in most heavy-duty trucks since 1999, with some manufacturers continuing to install mechanical controls (as opposed to electronic controls) until 2003.

“Based on this context, it is likely that the means required to comply with a speed limiter requirement would be to use the ECU to control the speed of the vehicle rather than installing a mechanical means to do so” , said Wednesday’s notice.

FMCSA plans to use the comments submitted to its Notice of Intent, including responses to a list of 12 questions, to inform the SNPRM.

Mixed industry on the FMCSA plan

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear hailed the FMCSA’s updated plan for a speed-limiter rule.

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

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, however, opposes the imposition of speed limiters, saying it would lead to increased interactions between trucks and passenger cars, thereby decreasing safety.

“Studies have shown that a higher variation in the speed of vehicles in the flow of traffic increases the risk of accidents and that speed limiters lead to a variation in speed,” an OOIDA official said in response to the proposal.

More FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

Sign up today for the Future of Supply Chain #FOSC22

Leading supply chain voices will travel to Rogers, Arkansas, May 9-10.

*Limited time pricing available.

Kevin A. Perras