Speed Limiter Proposal

On September 7, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register.  The two agencies are considering requiring commercial trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with devices that would limit their maximum speed.  In addition to requiring speed limiters, the two agencies also consider adopting a maximum speed of 60, 65, and 68 mile-per-hour maximum speeds.  NTTC staff are reviewing the proposal and supporting documents and invite member input on our response.  Comment period closes November 7.

Proposed Changes

Speed Limiters at all? The opening question is whether or not speed limiters should be required at all on trucks.  That the agencies have made a proposal at all indicates that some speed limiter requirement is likely.  The notice cites a wide-ranging set of safety studies commissioned by NHTSA, FMCSA, and outside sources, all indicating the safety benefits of speed limiters.  FMCSA research indicates that speed limiters can reduce crashes by up to 44% per year, but the proposal uses more conservative numbers and can still score as cost-beneficial.  The proposal is almost certain to adopt some speed limiter requirement.  Right now, the agencies would require speed limiters three years after the requirement is adopted.

60, 65, or 68 mph? The proposal considers maximum speeds of 60, 65, and 68 miles-per-hour.  The proposal expects more lives saved as maximum speed falls, but does not recommend any of the three speeds.  The petitions that started this process proposed maximum speeds of 68mph, but many organizations have since updated their preferred maximum speeds to 65mph.  Although the 60mph speed is projected to save the most lives, the agencies also admit that their data is less reliable at the 60mph range.  That data will also be vulnerable to accusations that speed differentials between trucks with a maximum speed of 60mph and passenger vehicles with higher speeds actually make the roads less safe.  While the agency would likely prefer a 60mph maximum, a 65mph maximum has a critical mass of support from industry and so-called safety groups while being less vulnerable to accusations of creative accounting when developing cost-benefit estimates for the regulation. 

Maximum Speed (mph)

Lives Saved

Serious Injuries Prevented

Other injuries Prevented

Fuel cost and greenhouse gas emissions savings

68

27-96

30-106

560-1,987

$376 mil.

65

63-214

70-236

1,299-4,535

$848 mil.

60

162-498

179-551

3,356-10,306

$848 mil.

Tamper-resistance? Most trucks manufactured since 1999 and all trucks manufactured since 2003 already contain speed limiting-capable technology in their engine diagnostic units.  However, that technology is not designed to be read or displayed and speed limiting functions are not necessarily installed.  The proposal would require all trucks be equipped with speed limiting devices, but would not require engine manufacturers to design them to be tamper-resistant.  The proposal seeks comment on whether or not speed limiters should be tamper-resistant (an increased cost of $35-50 million) or tamper-proof ($150-200 million).  Requiring tamper-resistant or tamper-proof speed limiters imposes a one-time high cost on truck manufacturers.  Requiring carrier monitoring imposes a longer, but reoccurring, cost on motor carriers.  Manufacturers have provided data on device creation, but there is little data on monitoring costs.  The burden to monitor will most likely fall on carriers, unless carriers can provide data showing that their costs will be higher than those imposed on manufacturers’ costs to create tamper-free devices.

Carrier Responsibility to Test? Because the proposal does not envision requiring trailer manufacturers to install tamper-resistant or tamper-proof speed limiting devices, it instead requires that carriers test their vehicles to ensure that they conform to a current European standard.  The proposal does not indicate how often carriers would be required to inspect their vehicles and ensure their speed limiters are operating within the proposed standard.  As noted above, absent carrier data on monitoring costs, the responsibility to test the devices is likely to be placed on carriers.

Retrofitting? The proposal does not include requirements to retrofit engines currently incapable of using speed limiters at all.  However, the proposal does ask for comments about whether speed limiters should be required for all new vehicles sold after the rule takes effect or if all vehicles that could be equipped with speed limiters must be.  Retrofitting requirements are generally prohibitively expensive.  Absent showing of greater safety benefits than currently identified, the agency is unlikely to be able to impose a retrofitting requirement on engines that lack engine diagnostic units.  Requirements to develop technology so that EDU-equipped trucks provide proper testing results are possible.

Source: NTTC Advocacy
Boyd Stephenson
Senior Vice President

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