Will the Trump Administration Hit the Brakes on the Speed Limiter Rule?

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One controversial rule proposal that many expect will not become final under the new Trump Administration is the Speed Limiter rule proposed by two agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking dated Sept. 7, 2016, it has been proposed that each new multipurpose passenger vehicle, truck, bus and school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 11,793.4 kilograms (26,000 pounds) be equipped with a speed limiting device. The speed limits suggested for trucks in the proposed rule are 60 mph, 65 mph and 68 mph.

This rule has been discussed for a decade. According to the DOT, requiring speed limiting devices on heavy vehicles could save lives, as well as an estimated $1 billion in fuel costs each year. In fact, speed limiting devices have been implemented for years in many trucking operations for precisely these benefits. However, many commenters on the proposed rule have taken exception, in particular to the DOT's premise of enhanced safety, and argue that the disparity in speed between trucks and cars will instead lead to more accidents. The American Trucking Association (ATA), which generally supports reducing speeds, opposes the proposed rule, arguing that it is based upon insufficient data and fails to make a recommendation regarding which of the three proposed speeds it believes is best and why. According to the ATA, this lack of data and direction only elevates the safety risks to the motoring public. The lack of data could also make a final rule ripe for a legal challenge.

Numerous other groups have also opposed the proposed rule, including the Michigan DOT, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the National Motorists Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Federation of Independent Business. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries also opposed the proposed rule. In lieu of the speed limits proposed, it recommended using currently available technologies to improve safety, such as GPS devices, electronic log devices and accident avoidance devices.

It has also been argued that the proposed rule will disproportionally impact small carriers and independent contractors, who have spoken out against the proposed rule. In light of the backlash – and the potential adverse impact of the proposed rule on small businesses as well as industry use of speed limiting devices even without regulation – it is envisioned that the new administration will afford increased scrutiny to this and other proposed regulations and may scrap the proposal.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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