DELAY BREEDS CONFUSION

In my last blog I reported on the recent proposal of the DOT that would require governors to be placed on all new trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds. They are still undecided as to what the limiting speeds should be, and are considering 60, 65, and 68 miles per hour. Many large carriers have already installed governors, and along with the American Trucking Associations (ATA), have long supported such a requirement. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) however, usually has a somewhat different agenda from the rest of the industry; and not surprisingly, has objected to the proposal.

The FMCSA provided for a 60-day comment period; and although there are strong difference differences of opinion, it appeared as if the process itself would work fairly well. After 10 years of consideration, one would think that opinions on the subject are well established. This was not to be, however. Last week, the ATA, along with 47 of its state chapters requested a 30-day extension of the comment period. ATA has lobbied for such a rule for 10 years, but after a closer read of the proposal believe it is a “dramatic” departure from what was suggested in 2006. They feel the latest suggestion is deficient in several ways. ATA believes FMCSA should have determined a proposed speed, the financial impacts on carriers, and whether the regulation would require retro-fitting of older trucks. Additionally, a lot has changed over 10 years. The industry is safer, and carriers are being scrutinized more closely for safety violations. Speed limits in some states have changed dramatically. (Some western state speed limits are as high as 85 mph.) Particularly with the three optional speeds, ATA believes it needs more time to seek the views of its members.

The question of whether retro-fitting older trucks will be important, as well. In some past situations, compliance has consisted of purchasing older tractors manufactured before the effective date of new regulations. This of course violates the intent, but not the letter of the law. Bottom line, ATA simply feels they need more time to analyze and take a position on these new rules.

Expect strong objections by OOIDA to continue. The independent operators, generally speaking, concentrate more on speed than their company counterparts, since miles driven significantly impacts their income. OOIDA has stated that the proposed speed limits could cost drivers 50-55 miles per day, or about $22,165 annually. Perhaps their best argument is that slower trucks on an interstate highway with a 70-75 mph speed limit are going to cause more problems than they solve. It is not hard to visualize autos going 75-80 miles per hour, trying to weave around the slower trucks.

In any event, it appears that DOT has approached the industry without a clear picture of what they want to do. As a result, I believe we are going to see another long-suffering, controversial debate in the industry.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch