Safety and security initiatives are at the forefront of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rulemaking initiatives. However, the Department of Transportation has placed a number of regulations for commercial motor vehicles aimed at safety on hold for what seems to be an undetermined period of time. These delays in implementation have followed President Donald Trump’s directive that for every new regulation imposed, two existing regulations must be removed. Below is a look at a few of the most recent updates, and stalls, related to safety regulations.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that underride occurs in approximately 50% of fatal crashes between commercial motor vehicles and passenger vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between the years 1994 and 2004, 4,006 people died from an accident resulting in underride with a commercial motor vehicle.
Currently, federal law requires large commercial motor vehicles to have rear underride guards but not side guards. Studies conducted by the IIHS suggest that strong side underride guards have the potential to reduce the risk of injury in approximately 75% of side impact accidents between passenger vehicles and commercial motor vehicles.
On December 12, 2017, the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 was introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives by bipartisan representatives. This bill seeks to amend federal transportation law to require that the Department of Transportation issue a final rule requiring the installation of underride guards on all vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds and are manufactured on or after the law’s effective date. The bill has not been set for a vote in either chamber of Congress.
Speed limiters have been discussed in the commercial motor vehicle industry for nearly a decade, but it was not until August 26, 2016 that two agencies within the Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, published a proposal that all commercial vehicles with a gross weight of 26,000 pounds be equipped with a speed limiting device. A speed limiter would, at all times, prevent equipped vehicles from exceeding a particular pre-set speed setting. Under the proposal, three distinct speed settings were recommended: 60, 65 and 68 mph.
If implemented, speed limiters are estimated to save over one billion dollars a year in fuel costs and significantly reduce the severity of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities. Additionally, speed limiters are predicted to reduce the amount of brake and tire wear on commercial vehicles. Despite this, the issue of speed limiters has garnered its fair share of criticism due to being at odds with the reality of day-to-day life in the commercial trucking industry. Many associations have cited potential issues with implementation, including limiting productivity, increasing traffic, and creating “rolling roadblocks.”
The proposal requiring speed limiters, however, has come to a standstill. It is unknown if, or when, a speed limiter mandate may go into effect, as the Department of Transportation has moved speed limiters to its “long term” agenda item list. The speed limiter mandate has not been officially been withdrawn by the Department of Transportation. But, given the Trump administration’s stance against new regulations and push to cut existing federal regulations, it is predicted that any speed limiter mandate will likely continue to stall.
Section 393.60(e)(1)(i) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations prohibits the obstruction of a driver’s field of view by devices mounted on the interior of the windshield. While this section does not apply to “vehicle safety technologies”, Global Position System (GPS) devices are not considered “vehicle safety technologies” under the definition and thus were not permitted to be mounted on the interior of the windshield and/or the area swept by the windshield wipers.
However, now thanks to the Traditional Trucking Corporation’s application for a limited five-year exemption on behalf of all motor carriers, all operators of commercial motor vehicles can utilize GPS devices that are mounted on the interior of the windshield. In its application, the Traditional Trucking Corporation argued that this exemption was necessary because the dash of a commercial motor vehicle is not suitable for mounting a fixture to hold a GPS unit. Additionally, it argued that GPS units are roughly the same size as various safety technologies and that windshield mounting would prevent a driver from taking his/her eyes off of the road to look down at the dash to view a GPS device.
Motor carriers are now allowed to operate commercial motor vehicles equipped with GPS devices mounted (1) not more than 4 inches below the upper edge of the area swept by the windshield wipers; or (2) not more than 7 inches above the lower edge of the area swept by the windshield wipers; and (3) outside of the driver’s sight lines to the road, highway signs and signals. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration strongly encourages drivers utilizing GPS devices under this exemption to minimize and avoid possible distractions associated with using these devices by programming the device before starting to drive, stopping to reprogram the device as needed, and enabling voice command on the device to help avoid continuous glancing at the device’s display. This exemption is effective August 22, 2018 through August 22, 2023.
For more information about this article, please contact Heather Rice at 410.230.3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org.