It seems that when there is a proposed rule or regulation affecting the trucking industry, there is a great amount of buzz and often two sides vehemently opposed.
The proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation regarding mandatory speed limiters on heavy trucks is no exception. In one corner you have the industry’s largest trade group, American Trucking Associations (ATA) in favor of the rule which mandates that heavy trucks—weighing more than 26,000 pounds—be fitted with electronic devices that would limit top speeds to no higher than 65 mph. They argue that reducing and regulating truck speed via the device would decrease the number of collisions on U.S. roads.
In the other corner, you have opponents of the proposal, such as the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), who also cite roadway safety as their primary concern. However, they argue that the device would create differentials in speed between trucks and cars, which they believe would increase the likelihood of collisions and especially collisions on busy roads.
Timing is Everything
As with most things related to the passing—or not—of government rules and regulations, it takes time and this rule has been in the works for more than a decade. Further, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it takes at least a year after a regulation is first published to go into effect. Regarding this particular case, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published the rule in August of 2015.
Also affecting and perhaps complicating when this rule may or not pass is the new administration, with their focus at the present being cabinet appointments and building out their team. This worries proponents of the rule who had hoped to get it passed during the Obama administration and who are now fearful that the rule could perhaps stall indefinitely.
Opposing Views With Common Goals
Although both proponents and opponents of speed limiters cite safety as their primary concern, each side—as you can only imagine—has very different views on how speed limiters can help or hinder safety.
Proponents of speed limiters say speed limiters will:
- Improve Safety on Roads—Speed is the primary cause of fatal crashes and according to The Truckers Report, commercial trucks are responsible for 18% of those crashes. Advocates for mandated speed limiters say lower speed = less crashes.
- Improve Fuel Efficiency—The higher the speed, the greater the fuel consumption, as there is an increase in wind resistance. With fuel generally a fleet’s largest expense, clearly lowered speeds would be beneficial to keeping down fuel costs. For an example of just how much, according to the ATA, a truck traveling at 75 mph consumes 27% more fuel than one traveling at 65 mph. For larger fleets, speed limiters could prove very beneficial to the bottom line.
- Lower Emissions—The faster the speed, the more fuel burned, and the more carbon dioxide produced. With more and more pressure on management to reduce a fleet’s carbon footprint, lowering speed is a way to achieve just that, while also helping the environment.
And for the view from the other side, opponents of speed limiters cite these safety concerns:
- Unintentional Safety Consequences—As stated in their petition* regarding speed limiters, OOIDA is of the belief that speed limiters would create speed differentials between trucks, cars or even motorcycles which will increase the risk of collisions, as smaller vehicles may attempt to pass “speed limited trucks” to enter or exit the highway.
- More Road Congestion—According to an article in Truck News, speed limiters would mean that vehicles are traveling at different speeds over the same network—meaning more bottlenecks, which leads to more congestion and is about the last thing needed on U.S. roads.
- Profit Loss for Smaller Owner-Operators—OOIDA claims that mandated speed limiters could cost vehicle operators 50-55 miles per day, which is not good news for the bottom line, especially for that of smaller fleets and/or owner-operators. According to OOIDA’s calculations, the loss of miles is the equivalent of around $85 per day or approximately $22,100 per year.
So what corner are you in? Yay…nay…or undecided?
We would love to hear your thoughts on the proposed rule and how it could affect your fleet operations.
*For the full text of the petition, click here