Uncle Sam is resurrecting plans to require big rigs to be equipped with activated speed limiters as part of a larger effort to reduce the number of crashes on highways.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has filed a Advance Notice of Supplemental Proposed Rulemaking (ANSPR), also called a Notice of Intent (NOI). This signals that the agency will develop a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM), by reopening the speed limiter rulemaking from September 2016. Public comments to the ANSPR are due by June 3, 2022.

The 2016 speed limiter rulemaking was a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FMCSA.

NHTSA has jurisdiction over the safety standards in new vehicles, including commercial motor vehicles. In 2016, NHTSA proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard requiring manufacturers to equip each new truck and bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 26,000 pounds with a speed limiting device.

That same year, FMCSA proposed a complementary federal motor carrier safety regulation. It would have required new commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) with a GVWR over 26,000 pounds to be equipped with a speed limiting device and that motor carriers maintain the speed limiting devices for the service life of the CMV. FMCSA and NHTSA abandoned those plans during the previous presidential administration.

Now in 2022, the FMCSA ANSPR seeks public comments on a series of questions intended to help the agency develop its SNPRM. Most questions relate to the adjustment or reprogramming of the engine control units (ECUs), also known as engine control modules (ECMs). As explained in the 2016 NPRM, vehicles with ECUs/ECMs are generally able to be electronically speed governed.

What the FMCSA ANSPR does not do is suggest where to set the maximum speed on a mandatory speed limiter device, nor whether the device could be temporarily overridden. In fact, the agency is not seeking public comment on the maximum speed. The 2016 NPRM from NHTSA and FMCSA considered maximum speeds of 60, 65, or 68 mph but did not settle on one figure.

Instead, comments on those topics would be directed to the SNPRM when the FMCSA develops the notice and publishes it in the Federal Register in 2023. FMCSA specifically seeks new public comments to the ANSPR, even from those who submitted comments to the 2016 NPRM.

Highway speeds have become a major safety concern, notably when reduced traffic volumes during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic created the allure of open roads. But the speeds of both cars and trucks have not significantly subsided since then.

NHTSA and FMCSA have jointly listed the prospect of a federal speed limiter rulemaking in each Unified Regulatory Agenda since 2016. Now FMCSA has signaled its intent to move forward alone, leaving NHTSA to “evaluate the need for additional regulatory actions concerning CMV manufacturer requirements to address issues raised during implementation that are beyond the scope of FMCSA’s authority.”

For more information, including how to submit your comments, read the FMCSA FAQ about its Notice of Intent.