Speed limiter support is a main focus in the recent letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg from American Trucking Associations and Road Safe America, a group of safety advocates.
In the letter, which outlined the groups’ push for Congressional and Department of Transportation policymakers to put in place new speed limiter guidelines, explained that the speed limiter rule originally written into a 2016 rulemaking proposal is due for some major updates. This idea is inspired mostly by the current plethora of automated driver-assist safety technology that has seen huge advancements in the last few years.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created that 2016 proposal, which requested that all trucks, buses, and multipurpose vehicles with maximum vehicle weight ratings of at least 26,000 pounds have speed-limiting devices implemented onboard. With these heavy-weighing vehicles at hand, the proposal offered that maximum top speeds should be between 60 and 68 miles per hour.
Still, though, the proposal failed to mention the ATA-supported anti-tampering requirements for said speed limiters, as NPRM has had many concerns regarding these regulations–even though ATA was a supporter early-on in the speed-limiter conversation.
“When the Department of Transportation initially published the 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking, ATA and many other carriers shared several concerns about the efficacy of a one-size-fits-all solution applied to a sector as complex and nuanced as trucking,” wrote Steve Owings, president of Road Safe America, and Chris Spear, President of ATA, in their letter to Buttigieg in March. “Foremost among them were the unintended and potentially dangerous consequences of limiting commercial drivers to one universal speed limit despite the varying limits set for passenger vehicles on interstate and secondary roads. Another question was how such a rule would adapt to the rapid evolution taking place in vehicle safety technology.”
These kinds of technological changes in the trucking world have allowed more and more fleets to easily utilize high-quality, highly-efficient automated safety tech, which has made ATA begin to “support new and safer approaches to speed management,” according to the letter. Therefore, all methods of speed limiting should take into account any current “21st century solution” that would be able “to ensure maximum adaptability” for a motor carrier–especially as the adoption of integrated safety technology among fleets is happening more quickly than ever before.
ATA has been working to secure a speed limiter rule since 2006, when it first urged FMCSA to implement a new regulation–a proposal which was initially supported by the agency. However, many questions quickly arose in regards to the lack of helpful data and a “flawed” method to limiting overall speeds.
“The world has changed so much since 2006,” said Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of ATA. “In 2016, 2018, [and] 2020, technology [had] become such a huge part of how motor carriers manage safety for their trucks.”
This isn’t the first proposal for updated speed limiter regulations in recent years, either–in December 2019, many safety advocacy groups, including Road Safe America, heavily supported the Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act. This bill, proposed in the Senate, was named for Steve Owings’ son, who died when a cruise-control-operating tractor-trailer struck his car in 2002.
This 2019 legislation “promoted incentives to drive adoption and use of newer technologies” while allowing the Department of Transportation to be able to ”continually review and update technology requirements to guard against obsolescence,” the letter explained.
“We’re continuing to figure out exactly what our strategy is going to be, along with others who are supportive of this,” said Owings of the 2021 proposal. “We’ve got a pretty big coalition. We’re going to continue to push for this common-sense change both in the regulatory arena and the legislative [arena].”
Although speed limiters are not a new tool, there are now many more possibilities for their usage, as they can work in tandem with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and other automated safety tech to boost a fleet’s safety capabilities.
“Speed is a component of safety, but now it’s only one tool in a suite of technologies that we have,” Sullivan noted. “Speed limiting is a fundamental component of safety management. ATA’s policies support speed limiting, and we need to make sure that it’s done in a way that accommodates the changes in equipment and technology.”