Fate of proposed speed limiter rule remains less than certain

In the name of too much government intervention or, perhaps restrictive regulations, President Trump made it clear upon taking office that too many regulations are bad for the nation’s business. But when it came to a pending regulation calling for the requirement of electronic limiting of truck speeds, it seemed clear that the writing was on the wall for that regulation to not see the light of day, which remains the case still today.

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In the name of too much government intervention or, perhaps restrictive regulations, President Trump made it clear upon taking office that too many regulations are bad for the nation’s business.

But when it came to a pending regulation calling for the requirement of electronic limiting of truck speeds, it seemed clear that the writing was on the wall for that regulation to not see the light of day, which remains the case still today.

And to be sure, there are many who think that is a bad thing, especially when considering some of the sound reasoning and logic that went into this specific regulation, which was issued in the form of a proposed rule last September.

As drafted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the speed limiter rule would require all newly manufactured U.S. trucks, buses, and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with speed limiting devices. It would not require retrofitting of older trucks.

DOT and NHTSA said last fall that requiring speed limiting devices on heavy vehicles could save lives, as well as an estimated $1 billion in fuel costs per year.  Although the government did not say exactly what the top speed of the governors would be, the proposed ruling would require those devices to be set to a maximum speed. The proposal discussed the benefits of setting the maximum speeds at 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour, but former DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said in August that the DOT “will consider other speeds based on public input.”

An April letter to current DOT Secretary Elaine Chao from Steve Williams, president of Trucking Alliance, a concern comprised of large truckload carriers focused on initiatives related to driver safety and security, and chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, and Kevin Knight, vice president of The Trucking Alliance and executive chairman of the board for Knight Transportation, came out in support of speed limiters.

“The Trucking Alliance strongly believes that excessive large truck speeds are critical factors in the severity of injuries and fatalities in large truck accidents,” they wrote. “The Trucking Alliance supports a federal regulation to require that all commercial trucks of the specifications proposed, whether engaged in interstate or intrastate commerce and whether new or old, be equipped with a truck speed limiter device. Further, the Trucking Alliance supports a truck speed limiter rule in which the maximum speed setting is no more than 65 mph.”

Regardless of the White House’s stated intentions to slash regulations and their motives notwithstanding, it goes without saying that Williams and Knight are far more informed about what is best for the trucking industry than the White House is. And that in itself is pretty telling in that two powerful trucking executives are asking for a regulation to be signed into law, which is not something that happens every day.

A recent Bloomberg report touted the potential benefits of a speed limiter rule, explaining that “Government reviews far exceeded the costs it would impose on industry in delayed shipments of goods,” adding that “costs are projected to be from $209 million to $1.6 billion per year. Fuel savings alone would exceed that, the government projected, and overall benefits including fewer highway deaths would range from $684 million to $6.5 billion a year.

What’s more, in 2012, a study issued by the DOT found that the crash rate among trucks not equipped with speed limiters was 16.4 crashes per 100 trucks on an annual basis. And for trucks with speed limiters, the crash rate was lower at 11 crashes per 100 trucks per year. Data for this study was based on more than 150,000 trucks recorded from 2007-2009, covering more than 28,000 crashes. 

At the FTR conference in Indianapolis last September, Schneider CEO Mark Rourke said that his company’s fleet has been utilizing speed limiters for 7 years, while seeing an increase in fuel economy and a reduction in crashes. To be sure, Schneider is not the only example of a large carrier seeing multiple benefits of speed limiters.

Despite the good intentions of the speed limiter rule, they now may likely no longer be as relevant if the proposed rule simply goes away, as per Trump’s mandate to eliminate regulations. What happens now is anyone’s guess, but for something that once looked pretty promising in terms of coming to fruition, it now seems a lot further from the finish line than it once was.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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