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Agencies concede speed limiter impact on small carriers

The proposed regulation mandating speed limiters on new trucks “may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small businesses,” two U.S. Department of Transportation agencies acknowledged in the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), which was published September 7.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are proposing to require newly manufactured trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with a speed limiting system. The actual speed would be determined the course of the rulemaking, but the agencies are considering 60 mph, 65 mph and 68 mph.

In the NPRM and in the preliminary regulatory impact analysis, the agencies suggested that small carriers could face disproportionate impacts for two principal reasons. First, “a speed limiting device might take away certain competitive advantages that small carriers might have over large trucking firms that already utilize speed limiting devices,” NHTSA and FMCSA said.

However, the agencies said they had “very limited knowledge of knowing whether that impact is 10 percent of their business, or more or less.” Second, “small carriers with limited resources may not be able to increase the number of drivers to overcome the delay in delivery time.” The agencies estimate the opportunity cost for trucking operations due to longer transit times given a 65 mph limit at $501 million to $632 million a year, industrywide.

Although the Small Business Administration size threshold for trucking is $27.5 million – a level that would include carriers with well over 100 trucks – NHTSA and FMCSA appeared to focus principally on the impact on owner-operators. For example, the agencies noted that with limiting devices set at 65 mph they estimate that owner-operators would lose $50 million a year, or not more than 1 percent of their estimated labor revenue. The federal agencies said that the competitive impacts are difficult to estimate and requested comment “on how large the economic impact might be on owner-operators.”

Proposal draws early fire

Even though the comment deadline as of now is November 7, more than 3,000 comments have already been filed on the rule proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to require speed limiters on new Class 8 trucks. Most of the comments were filed in the FMCSA docket, though several hundred have been filed in the NHTSA docket as well. The vast majority of comments filed to date oppose the rule.

Meanwhile, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) have requested 60- and 30-day extensions, respectively, of the comment period. OOIDA argued that the proposal is “based on complex research that in some cases is being used in an unconventional way” and addresses non-safety topics, such as fuel efficiency, that require further analysis.

ATA argued that technological and regulatory/enforcement changes, including the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, along with new state laws and speed limits since ATA’s 2006 petition requires more analysis. “In addition, the proposed rule’s dramatic departure from ATA’s initial petition in terms of tamper proofing, the lack of a retrofit requirement, and the Agencies’ reluctance to specify a governed speed requires additional time for ATA and its federation partners to reengage its membership on these important issues,” ATA said.

In a joint letter, all of the major trucking safety critics opposed any extension of the comment period. They also called for requiring all trucks on the road to have speed limits, not just newly built trucks as currently proposed.

The notice of proposed rulemaking is available at

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