Big news from this afternoon John Gallagher, FreightWaves Chief D.C. Correspondent and Senior Editor. Looks like the good folks at FMCSA have a rule change on deck for next year and it is a biggie. A national speed limiter rule is in the works. A notice of intent was posted online soliciting comments about using engine control modules (ECMs), to set a monitorable speed limit on trucks over 26,001 pounds. That’s basically Class 7 vehicles and heavier. The comment period opens when the notice is printed in the Federal Register, which should be very soon.
USDOT cites speed as a major player in crashes and wants to use “speed limiting devices” to help rein that in. The NTSB had those in its “Most Wanted” list for 2021. The agency wanted to have a device added in during manufacturing of the trucks, but there already is one (ECMs). The ECMs can limit the throttle and RPMs of the engine, and thus control the maximum speed. Enterprise carriers have been doing it for years. Talking about those guys…
The ATA is full throttle for speed limiters, OOIDA says slow down folks
The American Trucking Associations was quick to jump on the news. ATA CEO and President Chris Spear welcomed the plan to enforce a national speed limit. “We intend to thoroughly review FMCSA’s proposal, and we look forward to working with the agency to shape a final rule that is consistent with our policy supporting the use of speed limiters in conjunction with numerous other safety technologies.” Spear said.
But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and every trucker worth his or her salt, knows exactly what this would mean. Send in the road graders, they’re about to level the playing field. “Studies and research have already proven what we were all taught long ago in driver’s ed classes, that traffic is safest when vehicles all travel at the same relative speed,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “Limiting trucks to speeds below the flow of traffic increases interactions between vehicles which can lead to more crashes.” “What the motoring public should know is that when they are stuck behind trucks on long stretches of highway, those trucks are often limited to a speed well under the posted speed limit,” said Spencer. Additionally, most crashes involving CMVs occur in areas with speed limits below 55 mph, mitigating the effect of any potential mandate.
Time to back to reality once again…
Everyone knows that owners-operators have a distinct advantage over the mega carriers – speed. Some say that the difference doesn’t matter; well let’s do some math. I used to haul components from Charleston Harbor, South Carolina to Renton, Washington. That’s almost 3,000 miles. A “common carrier” at 60 MPH would take 50 hours, or almost five full driving shifts to make the trip (you’re using an hour of that to find a parking spot, trust me). An independent contractor doing 75 MPH can make that in 40 hours – that’s a whole shift sooner. Can you do 75 MPH all the way there? Heck no, and I don’t recommend it. You have to navigate the Appalachians, the windswept hell of I-80, and the Rockies. But you see my point.
The ATA would give anything, including random body parts, to match the owner-operators’ speeds to their slower pace. That would boost the selling points of more capacity that the megas have over the singular trailers the solo operator/small fleets own. It would definitely hurt the industry by removing that competition from the playing field. It would also give enterprise fleets pricing power if they were to form a conglomerate and dictate what the rates would be.
Only private fleets (for example Walmart and Publix), would be immune, because they have their own capacity. Smaller businesses would be at the mercy of the fleets, since they have no leverage. And for those that scream for a return to “government regulation,” do you really want the government setting the price per mile? Do you know what they charge for hammers???