Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New ATA honcho calls speed limiter mandate ‘flawed’

“Be careful what you wish for …”

For more than a decade, the American Trucking Associations has lobbied Congress and the federal government to step in and mandate speed limiters on commercial trucks. Now that NHTSA and FMCSA have finally released their joint proposal to do just that, the new head of the ATA issued a statement last week saying the current proposal is flawed, and that the largest lobbying group for fleets will not support the proposal as written.

In the statement, ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said the feds’ proposal to electronically speed-limit trucks suffers from a lack of data and a lack of direction, and actually makes the roads less safe by increasing speed differentials between trucks and other motorists.

“Despite ATA's decade-old, pro-safety policy on speed, the new joint rulemaking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposes a menu of three speed options for commercial trucks, not one. It provides insufficient data, and fails to make a recommendation regarding which of the three proposed speeds it believes is best and why,” Spear said in the statement posted on ATA’s website.

This is a stunning rebuke of a proposal that ATA and Road Safe America have been agitating for going on more than a decade. And it puts the nation’s largest fleet lobby on the same side as the nation’s largest association representing small-business truckers and drivers. Both ATA and OOIDA have filed requests to extend the formal comment deadline, with ATA requesting a 30-day extension and OOIDA asking for 60-days, due to the significant economic impact from such a mandate.

OOIDA opposes a government mandate on this issue, pointing to research that contradicts the feds’ claimed “safety benefits” of speed limiters, as it would force a speed differential between heavy trucks and other vehicles using the highways. That would lead to more vehicle interactions, unsafe maneuvering and crashes, a study of speed differentials shows.

The government’s proposed mandate argues that speed limiters would provide a benefit by reducing the number of fatalities that occur in crashes involving heavy vehicles, as well as reducing the severity of injuries and property damage. The mandate argues that speed limiters would lead to less fuel consumption and a reduction of greenhouse gasses. A notice of proposed rulemaking published on Sept. 7 seeks public input on whether the speed limit for vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds should be 60, 65, or 68 mph.

Spear’s comments suggest ATA concurs with OOIDA’s assessment about the dangers proposed by split speeds for cars and trucks.

“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. This lack of data and direction only elevates the safety risks to the motoring public,” Spear’s statement reads.

The proposed rulemaking comes more than five years after NHTSA first published notice that it would initiate the rulemaking process on the issue, a time frame that both ATA and the OOIDA Foundation say should have given the agencies ample opportunities to address a significant number of data gaps and limitations found in the preliminary regulatory impact analysis.

With ATA and OOIDA on the same side, the government should get the hint. The speed limiter proposal is bad business for fleets as well as drivers.

OOIDA’s website, FightingForTruckers.com, has more information about the Association’s opposition to the mandate, as well as ways for truckers to contact their lawmakers and oppose a mandate. You can also file comments on the proposal here and here.