FMCSA Revives Proposal For Speed Limiters On Heavy Trucks

Joseph W. Pappalardo By Joseph W. Pappalardo, Devin A. Bembnister

On May 4, 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a proposed rulemaking to require speed limiters on commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, with a gross vehicle weight over 26,000 lbs. The rule would require interstate motor carriers that operate CMVs with an electronic engine control unit (ECU) to set a maximum speed to be determined through the rulemaking process. In other words, FMCSA has not yet published maximum speeds for either manual pedal or cruise control. The rule would also require Motor Carriers to maintain the speed limiter for the service life of the vehicle.

As stated above, FMCSA is focused on the ECU as the potential means for limiting speed. Not only can the ECU control management functions such as fuel supply to the engine, it can also monitor an engine’s revolutions per minute (RPM) in which the vehicle’s speed can be calculated. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been installing ECUs in CMVs since 2003, and “the vast majority of CMVs in operation today are equipped with ECUs.” For these reasons, the ECU is the likely means of implementing a speed limiter requirement, as opposed to installing a mechanical means of doing so.

FMCSA Revives Proposal For Speed Limiters On Heavy TrucksFMCSA’s proposal reflects the agency’s broader concern over the frequency and severity of commercial motor vehicle accidents involving high speeds. For example, in 2019 there were nearly 900 fatal crashes in areas with posted speed limits over 70 miles per hour. The U.S. Department of Transportation, through its National Roadway Safety Strategy, has identified “speed management as a primary tool to reduce serious injuries and fatalities.”

Advocates for speed limiters believe that even small differences in speed can have large effects on the force of impact between vehicles in a collision, and they argue that setting a speed limit could have positive safety and environmental impacts. Organizations like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) generally support the speed limiter requirement. Although ATA has consistently opposed a 60 mph limit, it supports a maximum speed limit of 70 mph in trucks equipped with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Without those safety features, ATA supports a maximum speed of 65 mph.

Other industry participants, such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, believe the speed limiter rule could increase speed differentials between trucks and passenger cars, and therefore increase the accident involvement rate. They argue that limiting a truck’s speed below the flow of traffic creates more interactions between vehicles, which may lead to more crashes.

FMCSA believes a speed limiter rule would “help reduce crashes and save lives on our nation’s roadways.” The agency is now accepting public comments on its proposal until June 3, 2022. At the time of this writing, there are more than 10,000 public comments.

As always, Gallagher Sharp’s trucking defense group will continue monitoring future developments on the FMCSA’s proposed rulemaking on the speed limiter requirement. If you have questions, please contact us.