To help prevent accidents involving commercial trucks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently updated its entry in the U.S. Department of Transportation's September 2023 Significant Rulemaking Report on its top speed plans. It removed a specific top speed from the proposed speed limiter rule for commercial motor vehicles.
The original report had indicated a 68 mph speed cap for most commercial vehicles in FMCSA's upcoming rulemaking. However, the FMCSA clarified that this figure was merely one of the options under consideration for the rule expected in a supplemental notice by late December.
An FMCSA spokesperson stated that they had not finalized the maximum speed limit and that the 68 mph limit was an option, reflecting past petitions and discussions.
The reason for initially including the 68 mph figure remains unclear. What is clear is that setting a maximum speed limit requires the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)'s review before publication for public comment.
FMCSA's top speed plans in process
FMCSA plans to release its supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking by December 29, but the proposed top speed is still undecided. The OMB review process could potentially span several months, but it precedes publication in the Federal Register. This process can take considerable time, having been under OMB review for 15 months.
After publishing the supplemental notice, the FMCSA will invite public comments, which could be in the thousands, and will review them before finalizing any rule. Implementing any rule will most likely take until at least 2025, even with expedited processing.
The idea of mandating speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks dates back to 1991 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published its first report on the subject. The American Trucking Associations called for a 68 mph limit in 2006.
The FMCSA and NHTSA jointly proposed such a rule in 2016, but a change in administration in 2017 stalled the effort. Last year, FMCSA brought the concept back, considering speed limiters for commercial vehicles over 26,001 pounds.
Opposition to FMCSA's top speed plans for commercial trucks
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), representing small-business truck drivers, opposes any speed limiter mandate. This sentiment is supported by the majority of the over 15,000 comments the FMCSA received on the supplemental notice.
Todd Spencer, President of OOIDA, attributed the uncertainty around FMCSA's proposal to "too many cooks in the kitchen." He committed OOIDA to opposing any speed mandate, focusing on the practical impact on truck drivers in traffic.
Spencer advocates for a speed policy that promotes uniform traffic flow. He stresses the need for realistic considerations in regulatory decision-making.
Why are speed limiters on commercial trucks being considered?
Whether it's a tractor-trailer, semi-truck, tanker truck, or dump truck, a large commercial vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed presents several road dangers. For example:
- Due to their size and weight, commercial trucks need more distance to stop. Speed further increases this stopping distance.
- Speeding shortens a truck driver's reaction time to road hazards and traffic changes.
- The force of impact in collisions intensifies with an 18-wheeler's speed and mass, causing more severe damage and injuries.
- Higher speeds affect a semi-truck's maneuverability. This makes turning and lane changing unsafe.
- Speeding heightens rollover risks in tractor-trailers, especially for high-center-of-gravity trucks.
Accidents involving commercial trucks can be devastating
Truck drivers have a duty to maintain a safe and reasonable speed. If they fail to uphold that duty and their actions cause someone's injury or death, they should be held accountable for their actions.
The truck accident attorneys at McDaniel Law Firm, PLC in Jonesboro, Arkansas are committed to helping injured motorists and their families seek the justice and financial compensation they deserve. We'll thoroughly investigate the truck driver's actions and the trucking company's negligence and fight for maximum compensation.
To find out how we can help you after a truck accident, contact us for a free legal consultation. We'll help you explore your legal options and answer any questions you have.