A proposal that would require speed-limiters on heavy-duty trucks has been slow in coming, but it will be published “within the next month, or so,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Wednesday.
The Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee had called on Foxx to present the administration’s DOT budget proposal for 2017. In a wide-ranging hearing that featured discussion of aviation, rail, transit, automobiles and autonomous vehicles, hearing chair Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also made time to chide Foxx for advising the committee a year ago that the speed-limiter Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) would be out last fall.
“I’m puzzled by this, because this is a rule that will help reduce highway fatalities; it has the support of the trucking industry; it has the support of various safety advocates,” Collins said. “Why has there been a delay?”
Foxx explained the rule has been held up in review at White Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since last May.
“As a top priority, we’ve been working with OMB to get that rule pushed out,” he said. Foxx reported that the current estimate calls for a publication date of April 22.
The rulemaking, which originated nearly 10 years ago with petitions from RoadSafe America and the American Trucking Assns., was officially initiated in May 2013 and was originally scheduled to be published in March 2014.
Speaking last fall at the annual ATA safety conference, Dave Osiecki, American Trucking Assns. (ATA) senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, suggested that the critical unknown is the speed setting in the proposal. (ATA has asked for a 65mph limit.) He also voiced frustration with the long delay.
“There just doesn’t seem to be an appetite to slow speed. We are a country of mobility,” he said. “We spend millions of dollars on safety every year—on tools, technology. But as a government, we don’t seem to want to tackle one of our biggest causes and contributing factors to crashes, and that’s speed.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), however, opposes such a rule, contending there is “a lack of solid science” to back up such a mandate, and that speed-limited trucks “would make highways less safe.” The small-business trucking group detailed their concerns in a letter last year to officials with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) ahead of the draft rule’s delivery to OMB. OOIDA also posted a petition of its own and called on truckers to help gather objective evidence to counter the "politically motivated" rulemaking.
More broadly in Wednesday’s budget hearing, Collins accused the Obama administration of not “living within fiscal reality” and of using “the same old gimmicks” to submit a plan that stretches the intent of congressional fiscal limits.
The budget proposes a new 10-year, $495 billion “21st Century Clean Transportation Plan” that would be paid for by a new $10.25 per barrel tax on crude oil and other unnamed business tax reforms.
“I am perplexed why the Administration waited to put forth this plan now when Congress debated and passed a multi-year transportation reauthorization, which the President signed into law, just three months ago,” Collins said.
Collins also noted the “many regulations” working their way through rhe Transportation Department and OMB.
“Priority should be given to regulations that are urgently needed and are required—indeed mandated—by Congress,” she said. “This is not a time to be issuing unnecessary, burdensome regulations in the midnight hours."
Collins did, however, express support for the DOT-controlled competitive TIGER grant initiative, and for the new Freight and Highway competitive program, known as FAST LANE.