Years in the making, FMCSA’s proposed speed limiter rule has again been delayed. In a Significant Rulemaking Report issued January 26, 2024, the Agency indicated that May 2024 is now its intended publication date for the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM), the next step in this rulemaking saga.

Originally proposed in conjunction with NHTSA in 2016, the rulemaking has ventured through three U.S. presidents and seven FMCSA administrators. Along the way, it’s sparked a mix of opinions and debates within the industry and among the general public.

As it currently stands, the proposal would mandate the use of speed-limiting devices on commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more to address concerns related to road safety and mitigate the severity of crashes when they occur. A proposed maximum speed of 68 mph was unintentionally unveiled in September 2023, when that month’s Significant Rulemaking Report referenced it, followed quickly by the Report being taken offline.

Due to a few significant factors, STC remains skeptical that the Agency will publish the SNPRM in May 2024. Chief among them is the looming November Presidential election. Suppose the Agency decides to move ahead and publish the proposed rule in May. In that case, conventional wisdom suggests a Final Rule to be published sometime in 2025 with an implementation grace period that could stretch many months, if not longer. Does FMCSA want to gamble with an Executive and/or Legislative Branch turnover? STC remembers the 2017 Trump administration executive order requiring a revocation of two regulations for every new one. Given the political divide, a rule as contentious as this would seem to be high on the list for a cut or a simple lack of follow-through.

Along similar lines, the Agency is currently without a Senate-confirmed Administrator following last month’s departure of Robin Hutcheson, who had served in the role since September 2022. Does Acting Deputy Administrator Sue Lawless want to push forward on a rule of this magnitude and polarization while in an “acting” role? Will the Biden administration soon nominate a new Administrator, or wait for the chips to fall in November? The latter is more likely.

To include all three branches of government, what about the courts? STC suspects a high likelihood of litigation by those attempting to prevent FMCSA from finalizing the rule. Also of note is that some members of Congress in the House (34 to be exact) have weighed in with the DRIVE Act to prevent FMCSA from moving forward with any speed-limiter rulemaking.

While the safety intent of a speed limiter rule is obvious, several valid concerns remain. We believe the chance of a speed limiter rule being published before the November election is between slim and none, and slim was recently seen boarding the Presidential campaign bus.