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FMCSA revs up plan to mandate speed limits on truck engines

Agency to issue rulemaking in 2023 requiring electronic engine controls

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.

Truck speeds on Biden administration radar

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.

Industry mixed on FMCSA plan

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. 

More FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

7 Comments

  1. I’m always astounded the government’s answer to any issue is to regulate it more. I’ve been driving for more than 30 year. I have seen the post speed limits go from 55 mph to mostly 70 mph now. I drove in states with split speed limits for trucks and cars, which was in my opinion unsafe. This was only in a few states, so now the answer is to do it every state. I would hope that you would use the old data from those state which had split speed limits for some knowledge of safety. In my final opinion, we have speed limits why not I force then? Over the years I have seen the speed tolerance increase which has made the average speed of the highways increase. Most states have a 10 mph tolerance on interstate before stopping speeders. If the posted speed limit are enforced the highway speeds will decrease and the highway safety will increase.

  2. The transportation secretary is a pillow biting freak who thinks men can get pregnant. He’s way out of his league

  3. More accidents are caused in slower traffic sounds like the politicians know this they study this that is why you always see the highway patrol backing up traffic they say it’s so they can clean the road ahead but when they do it at the same time every day days differently weight your Congress men and women and fight for unregulated semis!!!!

  4. DECREASING SPEED FOR TRUCK DRIVERS WOULD HURT MANY FAMILIES JUST LIKE MINE .I SPEND OVER A WEEK FOR MY HUSBAND TO COME BACK HOME TO ONLY SEE HIM FOR A DAY OR TWO.IT IS HARD TO THINK OF HOW LONG HE WILL BE AWAY .ALL TO MAKE A BETTER FUTURE FOR OUR FAMILY.TRUCK DRIVERS ARE TRAINED FOR MANY HOURS BEFORE BEING ABLE TO DRIVE A TRUCK.SAME AS EVERY REGULAR VEHICLE THERE’S A SPEED LIMIT.THE DIFFERENCE IS TRUCK DRIVERS DRIVE CROSS STATE ,MANY HOURS OF DRIVE AND DEADLINES TO MEET FOR PICK UPS AND DROP OFF. GOD FORBID LOAD IS LATE OR BROKER DID NOT DISPATCH LOAD CORRECTLY.TRUCK DRIVER PAYS THE PRICE :NOT BEING ABLE TO GO TO THE NEXT PICK UP ,FEES, NOT ENOUGH REST. TRUCK DRIVER HAVE ALOT OF REPONSIBILITY WITH WEIGHT IN THEIR TRUCK. DECREASING SPEED WILL BE HAZARD FOR TRUCKERS TO MANUVER WEIGHT THEY CARRY ON THEIR LOADS. REGULAR VEHICLES SWIRVE INFRONT OF TRUCKS ,TURN WITH TRUCKS HOPING FOR THE BEST. DMV NEED TO ALSO INCLUDE IN DRIVERS TEST IT IS NOT SAFE TO OUT RUN A TRUCK .YES TRUCKS LOOK SCARY BECAUSE THEY AREY 5 TIMES A SIZE OF A VEHICLE. TRUCKS CANNOT STOP AS FAST AS AREGULAR CAR. EVEN WHEN GOING IN SLOW SPEED IT’S A PROCESS. EXAMPLE: TRUCKER DRIVE FROM CALIFORNIA TO INDIANA 2,200 MILES .NOW IT WILL TAKE FROM POINT A TO POT B 3DAYS. IF SPEED LIMIT IS CHANGED TO 65 IT WILL TAKE 4 DAYS.INSTEAD PRODUCT ARRIVING EARLY WILL ARRIVE 1 DAY LATE,COST DRIVER MORE DIESIEL (PRICES OVER THE ROOF SKY HIGH) , LOADS NOT PAYING WHAT THE PRICE SHOULD BE,FIGURE HOW TO MAKE UP LOST MONEY FOR THAT EXTRA DAY IT TOOK TO DELIVER THE GOODS . DECREASING SPEED LIMIT WILL DECREASE WORK PRODUCTION BY A LARGE PERCENT. NO ONE WANTS TO DIE ON THE ROAD .EVERYONE WANTS TO GET HOME SAFELY.

  5. I’m an owner operator one truck owner for 10 years now although I think many drivers do drive way faster than they need to. Having all trucks set a slower speed is ridiculous and dangerous. Most company’s have a set speed also. No point in making a regulation to set speeds or will do nothing but keep new drivers and owners from the industry

  6. Imagine the poor drivers that are interstate, instead of taking 2, 3 or more days from point A to point B, now they will and be ready to take for ever, California is one of the most stupid states that keep the speed limit for CMV at 55. and, when the driver catch any accident or construction on the fwy, how much valuable time he will be lost, but that doesn’t care to the stupid government, speed limit is only about money, more slowly,
    more fuel, more MONEY.

  7. Stop making our job even more difficult, its regulated enough already. If they place this on more trucks that have it already your going to cause more accidents and create even more traffic congestion. Stop giving a CDL to just any driver, there are to many out there that can not drive a Semi. Everything that every person wants or needs is moved by truck so give us a break. You politicians are just disgusting and you cause more death and hardships and grief than anyone else in this country. How about some regulations on them like absolutely in no way are they allowed to benefit in any way at all by making decisions that favor certain people or companies.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.