• ITVI.USA
    16,240.330
    -110.510
    -0.7%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.762
    0.031
    1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.780
    0.120
    0.6%
  • OTVI.USA
    16,233.310
    -109.890
    -0.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
  • ITVI.USA
    16,240.330
    -110.510
    -0.7%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.762
    0.031
    1.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.780
    0.120
    0.6%
  • OTVI.USA
    16,233.310
    -109.890
    -0.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
American Shipper

Compliance 360: ATA waffles on speed-limiting regulation

   The American Trucking Associations has urged the federal government for a decade now to mandate the use of electronic devices that prevent truck drivers from exceeding a pre-determined speed. Now, after the Department of Transportation finally decided it was a good idea, the ATA appears to backing away from the policy and taking a more neutral approach to placate a group of members who are not in favor of speed limiters.
   Sources tell me there’s an internal divide within America’s largest trucking advocacy organization about regulating the technology, but the ATA’s own statements make it clear that there has been a change in its position.
   On Oct. 6, the ATA raised questions about a recent plan by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that would require engine governors be installed on all newly manufactured commercial vehicles.
   The safety agencies said they would look to public comments for determining the maximum safe speed at which engine governors should be set. The proposal discusses the benefits of setting the maximum speed at 60, 65 and 68 miles per hour, but gives the agencies the option to consider other speeds based on public input.
   According to the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), controlling truck and bus speeds would save lives and more than $1 billion in fuel costs per year.
   The NPRM estimates limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 60 mph would save 162 to 498 lives annually; limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 65 mph would save 63 to 214 lives annually; and limiting the speed of heavy vehicles to 68 mph would save 27 to 96 lives annually.
   Since 2006, the ATA has called for mandatory speed limiters for large trucks to cap speeds at 65 mph.
   The association points out that driving too fast was the primary reason for 18 percent of all fatal crashes where a large truck was deemed at fault, according to federal data.
   Many ATA member companies voluntarily install governors on their trucks, although they don’t follow a uniform speed cap. Large fleets that emphasize compliance often complain that independent operators drive faster in order to move more freight within the daily limit for drivers to be behind the wheel. They view the regulation as a way to force everyone to play by the same rules, thereby leveling the playing field in a competitive freight market.
   And the ATA’s in-house newspaper, Transport Topics, was quick to endorse the proposal for electronic speed devices in a Sept. 5 editorial, saying, “the technologies mandated are well-tested, durable and broadly affordable. Second, they put all large trucks under the same simple rules, making it hard to cheat for competitive advantage. This makes highways safer for trucks, cars and all of their drivers and passengers—without making daily operations more complex. That should be a rule that everyone could support.”
   But soon afterwards, the ATA requested the comment period be extended to 90 days from 60 days to allow stakeholders time to better marshal their arguments.
   In its letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx requesting the extension, the ATA hinted it may be balking at the proposed rulemaking because other safety developments may have rendered speed limiters less necessary.
   “Many useful safety technologies have been deployed and adopted, motor carriers have endured greater scrutiny over regulatory compliance with the roll-out of the Compliance, Safety and Accountability programs, and electronic logging devices utilizing GPS technology have been mandated” in the past 10 years, the ATA said. “These developments, along with new state laws and speed limits, have changed the way motor carriers view and respond to safety concerns. In addition, the proposed rule’s dramatic departure from ATA’s initial petition in terms of tamper proofing, the lack of a retrofit requirement, and the agencies’ reluctance to specify a governed speed requires additional time for ATA and its federation partners to reengage its membership on these important issues.”
   ATA members debated, but did not change the association’s longstanding policy on electronic speeding devices during their annual convention last month. But ATA President Chris Spear’s Oct. 6 statement essentially urged the FMCSA go back to the drawing board on what he called a flawed proposal.
   The rulemaking “provides insufficient data, and fails to make a recommendation regarding which of the three proposed speeds it believes is best and why,” said Spear.
   “Most disconcerting is the fact that DOT’s new rulemaking does not address the differentials in speed that would exist between any of the three proposed national speed limits for trucks and the speed laws of multiple states—allowing passenger vehicles to travel at much higher speeds than commercial trucks,” he added. “This lack of data and direction only elevates the safety risks to the motoring public. A mandate for a one-size-fits-all speed limiter will squelch innovation in technologies to enhance safety and accommodate not only highways, but potentially secondary roads and beyond.”
   The ATA’s nuanced position is likely an attempt to make both sides happy. One of the concerns, Spear said during a news conference at the ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas, is that the proposed rule doesn’t take into account the various speed differentials between trucks and automobiles, especially if governors are set below the posted speed limit on a highway. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has expressed similar concerns in its opposition to the proposal.
   Spear said at the time the ATA will not support the proposed rulemaking as currently drafted.

  Eric Kulisch is Trade and Transportation Editor of American Shipper. He can be reached by email at ekulisch@shippers.com.

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