Time running out for speed limiter comments Thinkstock

Time running out for speed limiter comments

Trucking interests not supportive of proposal, point to range of flaws

The month-long extension is about up, so anyone who’d like to share his or her thoughts on the proposed speed limiter mandate for heavy-duty trucks has to hurry to file formal comments by the Dec. 7 deadline—adding to the current of collection of more than 4,000 opinions from truck drivers, trade associations, and safety groups.

While the 118-page proposal suggests that speed limits of 60, 65 or 68 mph would be beneficial, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have promised to consider public input before setting the actual number. The speed limit would be managed by a governing device and would apply to all newly-manufactured vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating more than 26,000 lbs.

While trucking representatives such as the American Trucking Assns. and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. typically file comments at the deadline, submissions from some affiliated groups should provide a preview of what industry’s biggest players on Capitol Hill have in mind. (ATA and OOIDA also led the call for an extension of the comment period.)

Among the many statements already filed by state trucking associations—the heart of the ATA federation—the points made by the Arkansas Trucking Assn. are representative.

“It is our position that the proposal does not give due consideration or offer reliable research in too many areas and in too many ways to move forward,” writes Shannon Newton, the association president. “The rule, which has been under consideration for years, offers no history of how or if any of its recommendations have been examined, researched and tested.”

The Arkansas truckers point out that the proposal does not recognize the “fast-changing technologies” affecting both automobiles and large commercial trucks, systems that “hold the promise of making technologies such as stand-alone speed limiters obsolete.” Such technologies include forward collision mitigation systems that are already in the marketplace, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication which would allow cars and trucks to communicate with and avoid each other, perhaps autonomously.

“Thus, while we maintain our long support of speed limiters in concept and improved safety on our nation’s highways, given the inadequacies identified in the proposed rule, the Arkansas Trucking Association strongly recommends the proposal be withdrawn, researched and rewritten for the benefit of all the motoring public,” Newton concludes.

While opposition from state trucking associations might be unexpected, given that an ATA petition launched the rulemaking, OOIDA has opposed speed limiters from the get-go.

Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief of Land Line Magazine (OOIDA’s official publication) and an employee director for the OOIDA board of directors, shared one of the publication’s editorial on the matter. The punchline: “It's truly baffling to see [the rulemaking] progress to the point it has. But what clinches the deal on utter shock is what the agencies actually presented as a ‘proposed’ regulation,” the editorial reads. “This ‘proposed’ reg proposes next to nothing. It's a federal government fishing expedition. … Regardless of what they think they are doing, putting this proposal out and pretending it is a credible foundation for a final rule is patently reckless."

The Western States Trucking Assn. takes a substantially different tack in an objection crafted by the Texas Policy Institute: “Contrary to the statements made in the Preamble, the Joint Proposed Rules are not based on any safety need but, rather, on a misguided effort to use federal traffic safety laws to govern emissions of greenhouse gases from trucks,” the comment, dated Dec. 6 and provided directly to Fleet Owner, details. “Neither NHTSA nor FMCSA has the legal authority to misuse federal law in that manner. Accordingly, the Commenters believe the Joint Proposed Rules are misguided, counterproductive, illegal, and dangerous.”

Among highway safety organizations, comments offer support for speed limiters—and call for the lowest speed option.

“It is disconcerting that the agencies were unable to decide upon a speed limit – 60 mph, 65 mph, or 68 mph – in the ten years since the petition was filed,” writes the Truck Safety Coalition. “Considering [the rulemaking’s cost-benefit] estimates and the fact that the ‘purpose of this joint rulemaking is to save lives by reducing the severity of crashes involving heavy vehicles,’ TSC urges the agencies to select 60 mph as the speed at which the limiters will be capped. … It is long past due for the United States to catch up to other leading countries on the implementation of speed limiting technology.”

Tic-toc: Comments may be posted or viewed here.

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