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FMCSA revs up plan to mandate speed limits on truck engines

Federal regulators plan to propose setting a truck speed limit using electronic engine devices in a proposed rule anticipated in 2023.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Wednesday issued a notice of intent to solicit comments that the agency will use to inform a supplementary notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM), which will include a proposal to amend the regulations and set a speed limit.

“The SNPRM will propose that motor carriers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater, that are equipped with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) capable of governing the maximum speed be required to limit the CMV to a speed to be determined by the rulemaking and to maintain that ECU setting for the service life of the vehicle,” the notice outlined.

The FMCSA is proposing that commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce with gross weights of 26,001 pounds or more be equipped with electronic engine control units (ECUs) to limit them “to a speed to be determined by the rulemaking and to maintain that ECU setting for the service life of the vehicle,” the notice said. 

A 30-day period for public comments and data regarding the adjustment or reprogramming of ECUs will begin after the FMCSA notice is published in the Federal Register, which is expected this week.

The National Roadway Safety Strategy unveiled in January by the U.S. Department of Transportation cited speed as a significant factor in fatal crashes and the use of speed management to help reduce serious injuries and fatalities, FMCSA pointed out in a fact sheet accompanying the notice. The National Transportation Safety Board listed speed limiters on its Most Wanted list in 2021.

“The number of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes in which speed is listed as a contributing factor is unacceptable,” FMCSA stated. “A carrier-based approach could provide the opportunity to compel fleets that are not currently using speed limiters to slow down their CMVs within a relatively short period.”

Federal regulators considered both a carrier- and truck manufacturer-based approach to speed limiters in 2016, when FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration jointly proposed a speed limiter rulemaking.

NHTSA had proposed a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) requiring each vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds — as manufactured and sold — to have its device set so as not to go over a specified speed and equipped with a way to read the truck’s current and two previous speed settings. FMCSA had proposed a similar complementary regulation, including the requirement that carriers maintain the devices for the life of the truck.

The two agencies had planned an updated joint rulemaking, according to an agenda posted earlier this year. But FMCSA changed course and will instead move on a separate carrier-based speed limiter rulemaking.

“FMCSA believes that placing the requirement on motor carriers will ensure compliance with the rule and potentially avoid confusion on who is responsible,” according to the notice. “FMCSA will continue to consult with NHTSA during the development of this rule. If necessary, NHTSA will evaluate the need for additional regulatory actions concerning CMV manufacturer requirements to address issues raised during implementation that are beyond the scope of FMCSA’s authority.”

Comments to the 2016 joint proposal revealed that ECUs have been installed in most heavy trucks since 1999, with some manufacturers continuing to install mechanical (as opposed to electronic) controls through 2003.

“Based on this background, it is likely the required means of achieving compliance with a speed limiter requirement would be to use the ECU to govern the speed of the vehicle rather than installing a mechanical means of doing so,” Wednesday’s notice stated.

FMCSA plans to use the comments submitted to its notice of intent, including responses to a list of 12 questions, to inform the SNPRM.

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear welcomed the FMCSA’s updated plan for a speed limiter rule.

“We intend to thoroughly review FMCSA’s proposal, and we look forward to working with the agency to shape a final rule that is consistent with our policy supporting the use of speed limiters in conjunction with numerous other safety technologies,” Spear said in a statement.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes mandating speed limiters, however, contending it would lead to increased interactions between trucks and passenger cars, thereby decreasing safety.

“Studies have demonstrated that a higher variance of vehicle speeds in traffic flow increases the risk of an accident, and speed limiters cause speed variance,” an OOIDA official said in response to the proposal. 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.