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Trucking safety advocates push for action on automatic braking and speed limiters

Photo: vitpho/iStockphoto

Washington — The Truck Safety Coalition is calling on the Department of Transportation to make automatic emergency braking and speed-limiting devices a requirement on commercial trucks and buses.

In a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, coalition President Tami Friedrich Trakh and representatives from nine other industry, labor and academic organizations contend “it is past time to issue essential and overdue truck safety standards,” including changes to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service rule for drivers.

The group points to the Feb. 3 train derailment and fire in East Palestine, OH, which involved the transportation of hazardous materials. “This similar scenario affects the safety of hundreds of thousands of hazardous materials shipments that move by truck every day through communities across the United States,” the letter states. “Government inaction and relentless opposition by special trucking interests puts the public at unnecessary and unreasonable risk of a deadly and dangerous crash.”

As mandated under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are proceeding with proposed rulemaking concerning automatic emergency braking. DOT’s Fall 2022 regulatory agenda lists March as a target date for publication of a proposed rule “to require and/or standardize equipment performance” for AEB systems on heavy trucks. 

Regarding speed limiters, the coalition asks for a federal mandate on the use of speed-limiting devices to cap commercial motor vehicle speeds at 60 mph because “speed kills.” In May, FMCSA published an advance notice of supplemental proposed rulemaking that expands on a 2016 joint proposal from NHTSA and FMCSA that would require speed-limiting devices on trucks, buses and multipurpose passenger vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds. FMCSA is the lone agency listed on the proposal, which doesn’t specify a top speed. The 2016 proposal suggested capping speeds at 60, 65 or 68 mph.

According to the regulatory agenda, FMCSA anticipates publishing a second notice of proposed rulemaking in June.

The letter also calls for the restoration of a 2011 final rule that preceded a controversial 2020 rule change that FMCSA claimed would add flexibility to hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers. “We urge you to restore the 2011 rule immediately and require a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving that does not allow non-driving work,” the letter states. “Additionally, DOT should reinstitute the rulemaking requiring screening and treatment of safety-sensitive personnel for obstructive sleep apnea, something DOT already requires of air pilots.”

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