The debate over speed limiters on trucks has returned. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reopened a 2016 rulemaking on the issue in May of 2022. Since then, comments about the plan are reportedly pouring in to the agency, even though an actual regulatory proposal is not anticipated until spring 2023.
Experience with truck speed limiters can be found in other countries, where mandates on trucks (as well as on other vehicles) date as far back as the 1990’s.
In Part One we look at speed limiter mandates in other countries. In all, 30-plus countries have speed limiter mandates.
The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have required speed limiters on trucks since January 2009. In each province, the speed limiters must be set for a maximum speed of no more than 65 mph (105 kilometers per hour, kph). The speed limiters may legally be deactivated when trucks travel into other provinces with speed limits greater than 65 mph. Substantial monetary penalties apply if the devices are not activated within Ontario and Quebec for speeds at or below 65 mph.
The provincial requirements apply to trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 26,000 lbs. (11,794 kg) or more, manufactured after 1994. There are exemptions for buses and emergency vehicles.
As is common in most countries, the speed limiters mandated in Ontario and Quebec communicate with the electronic control module (ECM) of the truck and limit the amount of fuel going into the engine when the vehicle reaches a pre-determined speed. This is the same approach FMCSA is now considering for truck speed limiters in the U.S.
Australia mandated speed limiters on heavy trucks over 32,151 lbs. (12 metric tonnes, t) and on buses over 11,023 lbs. (5 t), beginning with the 1990 model year. The speed limiters must be set for a maximum speed of no more than 62.4 mph (100 kph). There are slightly different vehicle gross weights and vehicle model years in certain Australian states.
India adopted speed limiters in 2008 for the southwest state of Karnataka and is now considering a nationwide mandate. Applied at that time to all trucks model year 2008 or newer, the mandate now covers older vehicles. The maximum speed is just over 37 mph (60 kph).
In Japan, heavy trucks over 17,637 lbs. (8 t) have had mandatory speed limiters since 2001. The maximum speed limit is 56 mph (90 kph).
Sweden first mandated speed limiters on heavy trucks and buses in 1994. Sweden expanded the mandate in 2005 and again in 2008 to where today it covers trucks over 7,716 lbs. (3.5 t) and buses with eight or more passenger seats. Throughout, the maximum speed has been 56 mph (90 kph).
In Germany trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 7,716 pounds or more (3.5 t) must have a speed limiter set at no more than 56 miles per hour (90 kph). This requirement also applies to buses with more than 8 passenger seats.
On the Autobahn network most trucks are further limited to 48 mph (80 kph). The 48 mph Autobahn limit also applies to buses and cars pulling trailers. In contrast, most of the Autobahn network has a recommended, as opposed to mandatory, speed limit of 81 mph (130 kph) for cars and motorcycles. Trucks are restricted to the right lane except when passing.
The East African country of Zambia began mandating speed limiters on all intercity and long-distance buses in 2005. The maximum speed is 62.4 mph (100 kph). Unique to Zambia, speed limiters there issue warnings via jerks and disturbances in fuel transmission when the maximum speed is exceeded, with the engine eventually cutting out and becoming non-functional for 30 minutes. (Safety experts, however, do not recommend policies which can result in disabled vehicles on a roadway.)
The UK began requiring speed limiters in 1992, expanding the mandate in 2008 to where today it applies to trucks over 7,716 lbs. (3.5 t) and buses with eight or more passenger seats. The maximum speed is 56 mph (90 kph) for trucks and 62 mph (100 kph) for buses.
There are 27 countries which adhere to the recommendations of the European Commission, the administrative and technical arm of the European Union. Those 27 include Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom. Speed limiters are mandated in all 27, with applicability currently set at trucks over 7,716 lbs. (3.5 t) and buses with eight or more passenger seats.
Read the second part of this blog as we review research and results in some of these countries with speed limiters and what the future may hold, including when it comes to possibly mandating the devices on trucks in the United States.
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