House bill would clip FMCSA's ability to implement speed limiters

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Updated May 4, 2023
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H.R.3039 would "prohibit the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from issuing a rule or regulation requiring certain vehicles to be equipped with speed limiting devices, and for other purposes."

Note: This article was updated May, 4 at noon CT to include comment from the American Trucking Associations. 

A bill introduced in the House Tuesday would effectively end an ongoing push by the Department of Transportation to mandate speed limiters on heavy trucks

Speed limiter regulation was listed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in late 2022 as a rulemaking proposal it expected to pursue this year, and mid-last year the agency opened (and extended) a comment period on the topic for more than two months and received more than 15,000 comments. 

Introduced by Congressman Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.), the Deregulating Restrictions on Interstate Vehicles and Eighteen-Wheelers (DRIVE) Act would "prohibit the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from issuing a rule or regulation requiring certain vehicles to be equipped with speed limiting devices, and for other purposes." It has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The bill is co-sponsored by representatives Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Scott Perry (R-Penn.), Eric Burlison (R-Missouri) and John Moolenaar (R-Mich.). Among the groups voicing support for the bill were the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA); Western States Trucking Association; American Farm Bureau Federation; Livestock Marketing Association; National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC); and National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA). 

“The physics is straightforward: limiting trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles and leads to more crashes,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer.

Brecheen called looming speed-limiter legislation "overreach by the Biden Administration" with the "potential to negatively impact all facets of the agricultural and trucking industries. I know from experience driving a semi while hauling equipment, and years spent hauling livestock, that the flow of traffic set by state law is critical for safety instead of an arbitrary one-size-fits-all speed limit imposed by some bureaucrat sitting at his desk in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

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NASTC President David Owen added that mandating speed limiters on commercial vehicles increases speed differentials between cars and trucks, increases traffic density, and increases impatience and risky driving by those behind a speed-capped truck. 

"Mandatory speed limiters would likely cost more lives and cause more accidents and injuries," he said. 

The American Trucking Associations has long been in favor of speed limiters and in March 2022 joined Road Safe America in penning a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calling for the implementation of speed-limiting technology on heavy-duty trucks, and threw its support behind the December 2019-proposed Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act, which called for all new commercial trucks to be equipped with speed limiters and to require existing speed-limiting technology already installed on trucks manufactured after 1992 to be used while in operation. The bill called for maximum speeds to be set at 65 mph, or 70 mph if certain safety technologies, such as an adaptive cruise control system and an automatic emergency braking system, were also in use.

“Everyone knows excessive speed kills, and ATA policies support technology to address this irrefutable fact of physics. It is vital that any regulation get the details right, and the technologies are changing every year,” said ATA Executive Vice President of Advocacy Bill Sullivan. “These efforts to prohibit the development of safety policies are misguided, they will lead to more serious crashes, and this bill will never become law, even if it passes the House.”

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].