Posted on / by The Trucking Alliance

What We Know About the FMCSA’s Speed Limiter Proposal

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s report on Large Truck and Bus Statistics 2022, the most frequent truck driver violations in inspections in 2021 included speeding at least 6-10 miles per hour over the speed limit, with a whopping total of 63,950 violations.

The recent Dept. Of Transportation’s  National Roadway Safety Strategy and The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aim to combat such accidents, such as using speed management techniques and policies.

From collecting data to proposing new rules and regulations, the FMCSA has worked tirelessly to implement safety precautions that help achieve Road to Zero’s goal of eliminating large truck crash fatalities.

Most recently, the FMCSA announced that it will soon issue a Speed Limiter Proposal as a potential speed regulation for almost all large trucks on the roadways. The conversation about an expected truck speed limit regulation has sparked debate among truck drivers and companies nationwide.

Consequently, the Biden Administration has received over 120,000 comments on this proposed requirement.

As a coalition of freight transportation, logistics, and supporting businesses The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, also known as The Trucking Alliance (TA), was created to support safety reforms that can reduce and potentially eliminate all large truck crash fatalities.

These reforms include support for proposals like FMCSA’s latest speed limiter announcement. So here’s what we know about this developing topic:

What is the FMCSA’s Speed Limiter Proposal?

The FMCSA has outlined a speed limiter proposal specifically to reduce the number and severity of accidents involving commercial motor vehicles, or CMVs. The key objectives of this proposal are to enhance safety on the roads and promote consistency in speed limits across different states by enforcing the use of speed limiters via electronic engine control units (ECU). ECUs are already on most large trucks built since 1992. So, the operator of a commercial truck can simply turn on the device.

The 2022 supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) is a follow up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) and FMCSA’s jointly issued 2016 proposal on the same matter.

If adopted, the speed limiter rule would impose speed limitations on certain CMVs that operate in interstate commerce, namely those with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more equipped with an electronic control unit that’s capable of being governed.

Pros vs. Cons: The Debate at Hand

Of course, with any proposal comes two potential opinions for and against. Trucking companies, alliances like ours, and commercial drivers have all weighed in, offering their perspectives on the FMCSA’s proposal.

Here is what each side has to say about speed limiters:

The Anti-Speed Limiter Argument

Opponents of the Speed Limiter proposal point mainly to limited data around truck congestion and road rage. Many say that speed limiters would result in governed trucks potentially running as much as 20-25mph slower* than the flow of average traffic.

They argue that not only might these split speeds result in increased traffic, but it may also result in passenger vehicles using aggressive driving to navigate around CMVs, therefore increasing the risk of fatal accidents on the road.

However, this implies there are no (or minimal) speed differences on our highways today. In other words, this argument assumes that all vehicles are currently traveling at or very near the posted speed limit now – which any driver knows is false.

In fact, according to the NHTSA’s research, “even though limiting heavy vehicles to 65 mph may increase the speed differential between [commercial motor] vehicles and the median travel speed on some roads, 65 mph speed limiting devices may actually reduce the risk of heavy vehicles being involved in a crash on roads with posted speed limits of up to 80 mph (i.e., 15 mph greater than 65 mph).”

Also, many of the most-profitable trucking companies in the United States have speed limited their trucks for years – some for decades. From Werner Enterprises and C.R. England to J.B. Hunt and Schneider, among many others, none of these companies reported that their trucks experienced difficulties in higher-speed states, nor have any of them reversed their decision to speed limit their fleets.

*It should be noted that the FMCSA is not yet proposing regulatory language to amend the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or a specific speed limit to set the electronic engine control unit. 

The Pro Speed Limiter Argument

Proponents of the FMCSA’s speed limiter proposal believe that speed-limiting devices mitigate the risks associated with excessive speed across the board.

Most obviously, accidents that occur at slower speeds are less fatal compared to those that happen at higher speeds. Drivers are also able to wield more control of worst-case scenarios when their motor vehicle is operating at a slower speed.

Another wonderful benefit of speed limiters is that CMVs generally have better fuel efficiency. Implementing speed limiters can actually help optimize fuel consumption by keeping vehicles within an efficient speed range.

Not only does this reduce operating costs for carriers but also contributes to environmental sustainability by lowering fuel consumption and emissions by trucks. Should speed limiters become a standard practice in the trucking industry, we may potentially see significant decreases in harmful emissions caused by trucks – a win-win.

Lastly, speed limiters better enable compliance with speed regulations. It becomes easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor and enforce speed limits on CMVs when speed-limiting devices are installed. This ensures general road safety and also protects CMV drivers and operating companies in case of accidents because there is detailed evidence of traveling speeds.

Overall, limiting CMV speeds protects passenger vehicle operators, truck drivers, and trucking companies, thereby promoting road safety nationwide.

Trucking Alliance’s Thoughts on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Speed Limiter Proposal

Ultimately, as an industry leading authority on trucking safety, Trucking Alliance believes in the benefits that come with reasonably limiting speeds for commercial motor vehicles.

Our nonpartisan coalition is here to adopt and promote operating practices that exceed the minimum federal regulations required for truck drivers, such as FCMSA’s potential truck speed limiter initiative. TA member carriers collectively employ:

  • more than 82,000 people, of which 62,000 are professional drivers
  • more than 300,000 semi-trailers and containers

With that being said, we acknowledge the concerns that many drivers and companies have around this proposal. As such, in June of 2022, the Trucking Alliance submitted comments on the proposed regulation for speed limit devices, stating that our coalition:

“believes the industry is ethically bound to support safety reforms that can reduce and eventually eliminate all large truck crash fatalities. For example, excessive speed is oftentimes a leading factor in large truck crashes. For that reason, TA supports a federal motor carrier safety standard that will require large commercial trucks not to exceed a reasonable maximum highway speed. Large commercial trucks manufactured since 2003 have the technology to easily govern the truck’s maximum speed. All TA carriers are using this truck speed limit technology.”

We believe that higher safety thresholds and new industry technology can contribute to reducing the risk of large truck crash fatalities that occur yearly.

Sadly, as of May 2023, legislation introduced in the US House of Representatives would stop FMCSA from its’ proposed speed limiter solution. However, we are confident that Congress will reject this legislation and this speed management plan will be adopted.

For the latest information on the FCMSA’s expected federal truck speed limiter regulation, or to learn more about The Trucking Alliance, visit our website resources or contact our coalition today.