If you can't say something nice...

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Updated Jun 6, 2022

My favorite animated talking bunny, Thumper, (sorry Roger Rabbit and Bugs) once said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."

When the Federal Register opened for comments last month on a proposed mandate for truck speed limiters, FMCSA had to assume that the overwhelming majority of the 12,000-plus comments would be in opposition. And they are. 

"Horrible." "Overreach." "Stupid." "Dumb."

The Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operations: Speed Limiting Devices comment section is a master class in adjectives. 

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of valid points; trucks going slower than cars â€“ and all at the same speed – is not safe. I agree with that. It will increase road rage and passenger car versus large truck incidents. I agree that might happen. I agree with a lot of the concerns voiced. There are some valid points in favor as well, including that average truck speed is already within a previously explored limited range of 60, 65 or 68 miles per hour.

But those are points for your legislators. 

To be clear: drivers and fleets are entitled to feel however they want, but the opportunity to comment on this proposal in particular is not the place to take the fight. My fear is that using the comment section as a sounding board will silence what are some excellent points (and a few less excellent points). 

In posting its proposal, FMCSA asked for public comment on 12 questions, mostly dealing with the programming or adjustment of engine control units that could be made to impose speed limits on heavy-duty trucks. 

  1. What percentage of the CMV fleet currently uses speed limiting devices?
  2. If in use, at what maximum speed are the devices generally set?
  3. What skill sets or training are needed for motor carriers’ maintenance personnel to adjust or program ECUs to set speed limits?
  4. What tools or equipment are needed to adjust or program ECUs?
  5. How long would adjustment or reprogramming of an ECU take?
  6. Where can the adjustment or reprogramming of an ECU be completed?
    1. Can the adjustment or reprogramming of an ECU be made on-site where the vehicle is ordinarily housed or garaged, or would it have to be completed at a dealership?
  7. Do responses to questions 3 through 6 change based on the model year of the power unit?
  8. Since publication of the NPRM (in 2016), how has standard practice or technology changed as it relates to the ability to set speed limits using ECUs?
  9. Are there any challenges or burdens associated with FMCSA publishing a rule without NHTSA updating the FMVSS?
  10. Should FMCSA revisit using the 2003 model year as the baseline requirement for the rule?
  11. Should FMCSA consider a retrofit requirement in the rule and, if so, should it be based on model year or other criteria, and what would the cost of such a requirement be?
  12. Should FMCSA include truck Classes 3-6 (i.e., 10,001 – 26,001 lbs. GVWR) in the SNPRM? 

To-date, most public comments answer a question that was not asked: What do you think about speed limiters?

Anyone who logged a comment, anonymous or otherwise, that only addresses their thoughts about a potential mandate (for or against) needs to be on the phone with (or in the email inbox of) their local representation and their state trucking association(s).

If you want to drop a comment with an opinion on The Register, by all means go right ahead, but some poor clerk is going to be tasked with slogging through tens of thousands of comments and pulling out the ones that address only the 12 needs of FMCSA. It's unlikely a key decision-maker is ever going to see the lion's share of these comments simply because they're misplaced. 

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Whether you're pro- or anti-speed limiter, if you want your opinion heard, you need to be shouting in the right place, and that is not at the Federal Register

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].