UMA weighs in on national speed limit

More than 16,000 commenters weighed in on a proposed rule requiring speed limiters on commercial motor vehicles, which is favored by safety groups and largely opposed by the trucking sector.

Representing the motorcoach industry, the United Motorcoach Association filed comments in response to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s notice of intention to establish a national speed limit for buses and trucks.

UMA concluded there is insufficient scientific evidence to support establishing a compulsory speed limit using speed-limiting devices. 

“Indeed, the studies we found concluded that differential speeds between commercial motor vehicles and private cars increased interactions that lead to more crashes,” said Ken Presley,  UMA Vice President, Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO. “The bottom line is it is difficult to support something that we believe will create a less safe environment on the highways.”        

Life of vehicle

FMCSA’s most recent notice of intent was published April 27. If made into a final rule, the maximum speed of commercial vehicles — in excess of 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight — involved in interstate commerce will be governed via their electronic ECUs. The rule would cover Classes 7-8 commercial vehicles.

While the FMCSA hasn’t identified the maximum speed, users will have “to maintain that ECU setting for the service life of the vehicle,” according to the notice of intent. The original 2016 proposal sought comments on 60, 65 and 68 miles per hour.

“Congress withdrew the federal government from regulating speed limits in 1995 and returned the responsibility to the states,” said Presley. “In lieu of the 1995 law and the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding administrative overreach, we question whether the Congressional intent is there.”

UMA pointed out that use of speed limiters is currently widespread. A 2015 survey of UMA Members revealed that nearly 94% of the respondents implemented speed limits using the ECU.

Of those who said they use the speed limiters, the settings varied:

  • Below 65 miles per hour – 0.0%
  • 65 miles per hour – 1.28%
  • 68 miles per hour – 21.79%
  • 70 miles per hour – 19.23%
  • 72 miles per hour – 43.59%
  • 73+ miles per hour – 14.1%

FMCSA  extended the deadline to comment on the federal agency’s speed limiter rulemaking to July 18. The agency added a 45-day extension following requests from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association

In total, the federal agency received more than 16,000 comments. (To view comments, click here.)

Proposal dates to 2006

The speed limit debate began back in 2006 when the ATA petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FMCSA to require speed limiters on all large trucks be set to allow a top speed of no more than 65 mph. 

Some have described the proposal initiated by ATA, the largest national trade association for the trucking industry, as a “David versus Goliath” play. 

Many large fleet operators limit their speeds below the speed limit. This gives small fleet operators a decided time advantage. 

“Larger concerns that often have more political clout frequently attempt to shape regulations in a manner that gives their size an advantage, or at least ‘level the playing field,’” Presley said. “It’s a common theme in Washington, D.C., certainly one the UMA is especially sensitive to.” 


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