HOW THE MOVE ON SPEED LIMITERS WILL IMPACT YOUR BUSINESS
Speed limiters are on the docket again. Over the past 11 years they’ve moved from back burner to front burner several times. Whether you’re pro or con, now’s the time for trucking companies, 3PLs, fleets and warehouse solutions providers to get up to speed. It’s clear this issue isn’t going away fast—if ever.
The FMCSA’s Notice of Intent (NOI) for requiring speed limiters on heavy trucks was published in the Federal Register on May 4th and the public had until July 18th to comment.
The rulemaking process will determine speed limits for interstate CMVs weighing 26,001 lbs. or more that are equipped with an electric engine control unit (ECU) capable of being speed governed. The maximum speed has not been decided, however 60, 65 or 68 mph has been proposed in the past.
The public comment period is gathering input on maximum speed limit and other details that will shape the final rule which is anticipated in 2023.
The proposed rule has stirred hot debate. The heart of the speed limiter issue lies in safety and efficiency—two topics the industry and motoring public both have a stake in.
Safety and efficiency lead the list of speed limiter pros.
Highway Safety: The Biden Administration’s National Roadway Safety Strategy identified speed as a key factor in fatal crashes and speed management as a primary tool to reduce injuries and deaths. Overdrive cites a 2012 DOT study that suggests the crash rate for carriers not using speed limiters was three times as high as those using them.
Fuel efficiencies: The same DOT study demonstrates semis limited to 60 mph would save from $2,500 to $6,100 annually on diesel. At 65 mph, efficiency dips to $1,400 to $3,000, and at 68 mph it drops to $640 to $1,400. Fuel savings from speed limiters could amount to more than $1 billion a year, according to the DOT.
Emissions reductions: Reducing speed reduces the amount of fuel burned. That makes speed limiters one of the technologies the EPA supports for reducing greenhouse gas.
Safety and efficiency lead the list of speed limiter cons as well.
Higher accident involvement: The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) believes speed limiters force a higher speed differential—the difference between a forced speed limit and the traffic flow—which leads to a higher accident involvement rate. According to Dr. Steven Johnson, retired professor of engineering at the University of of Arkansas, the frequency of interactions with other vehicles by a vehicle traveling 10 mph below the speed limit is 227% higher than when moving at traffic speed.
Rolling roadblocks and road rage: Rolling roadblocks are created when a passing truck is speed-limited and can’t get around another truck. The side-by-side trucks form a roadblock that OOIDA says is a recipe for road rage and shoulder-driving. Detractors site rolling roadblocks and congestion as major downsides of speed-limiting.
Pressure to make up for lost time: Paid by the mile, drivers make less money if they’re forced to drive slowly. In public comments, many drivers also cite the pressure to make up for lost time as leading to potential speeding in low speed zones or bad weather in order to make a delivery on time.
Whether you’re pro or con, it pays to prepare.
Regardless of what side you’re on, the issue of speed limiters is not going to away.
Under the current National Road Safety Strategy, the FMCSA has a mandate to achieve zero traffic fatalities. The reality is that with the FMCSA, it’s my way or the highway.
It’s important to look at the other realities that will follow speed limiters becoming law. Slowing down trucks will require more trucks and a rework of transportation strategies. There will be disruptions to traffic patterns, and supply chains across North America will be constricted to some degree.
It is inevitable that a reduction in speed will bring delays in service. Companies will need to adjust clients’ expectations or feel pressure to make up for lost time. That will strain relationships and hit the bottom line of logistics companies in this competitive industry.
Companies can still get ahead of these realities if and when the rule is submitted. The affects won’t hit drivers until 2024-2026 at the earliest.
Nevertheless this is no time to get complacent. Unlike the failed rule proposed in 2016 which placed responsibility for implementation on manufacturers, the 2022 rule puts speed limiting on carriers’ shoulders.
Know the potential costs and compliance issues.
Speed limiter technology is already present in newer trucks. Since 2003 most semi-trucks have been manufactured with ECUs. But getting started is a lot more complicated than just flipping a switch.
One challenge is that ECU standards vary by the engine manufacturers. There are different methods of limiting speed and different parameters for limiting maximum road speed under varing conditions. Even the terms manufacturers use don’t always match up.
Whether you have your own shop or outsource your maintenance and repairs, there will be added expenses to implement, calibrate and maintain ECU technology.
Speed limiters create an additional task for periodic inspections and a new violation risk for drivers during roadside inspections. If you manage them in-house, there will be an equipment investment. Plus your mechanics will need training to read ECUs. Companies will need to maintain accurate compliance records, too.
All this means time and expense. The requirements of maintaining ECUs will increase pressure on mechanics who are already in short supply in the trucking industry.
Ask what’s best for drivers.
No matter what, drivers will be impacted the most by speed limiters. Truckers are independent by nature and telling them how fast to drive will always meet with resistance.
In addition to restricting their way of working, limiting drivers’ speed increases their stress to make delivery times and their pressure to be profitable. Training a new mindset and providing new tactics will be in order.
As the industry takes the speeding option away from drivers, it’s up to employers to make it up to them. Retaining drivers is harder than ever. The new pressure to slow down doesn’t help. Benefits programs and a company culture that supports drivers can help ease the inconveniences.
What can you do to lessen delivery pressures, reduce stress and promote the wellness of your drivers? Can you ease delivery requirements, beef up your over-the-road support or offer additional compensation? Now’s the time to put the pedal to the metal on enticements like these.
Look for the silver lining.
To date, the FMCSA has received close to 15,000 comments regarding its NOI to mandate speed limiters. The majority are from truckers voicing opposition. It’s important to hear what they are saying. It’s also important to listen to the cry for safety coming from the motoring public and the trucking community.
Industry leaders like Schneider, Pitt-Ohio and Maverick have already embraced speed limiters and made it inseparable from their charge for safety. It’s working for them, and they can provide a model carriers and others can follow forward.
The big question is how will you bring drivers along with you? Drivers want to be safe. They want to save fuel. They just need a reason to and the skills to do it.
In the end, training may provide the fastest lane to success in this new speed-limited world.
If you have company drivers, learn how the TeamOne Logistics platform provides leading solutions for retention, safety training, and compliance. Contact us for a free and custom consultation.