The Department of Transportation (DOT) released its latest report on significant rulemakings, including the 2023 rulemaking agenda. This gives us insight into what new or revised regulations they are considering. Contained in that report are the following entries for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters
Stage: Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Projected 6/30/2023)
FMCSA intends to proceed with a motor carrier-based speed limiter rulemaking by preparing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) to follow up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) and FMCSA’s jointly issued September 7, 2016, notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on this subject. The new rulemaking will consider whether commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 pounds or more should be required to limit the CMV to a speed to be determined by the rulemaking and to maintain that engine control unit setting for the service life of the vehicle. Older vehicles that don’t have an engine control unit may be exempt, much as older vehicles were exempt from ELDs.
Automated Driving Systems
Stage: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Projected 1/18/2023)
FMCSA proposes to amend certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) to ensure the safe introduction of automated driving systems (ADS)-equipped commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) onto the Nation’s roadways. The proposed changes to the CMV operations, inspection, repair, and maintenance regulations prioritize safety and security, promote innovation, foster a consistent regulatory approach to ADS-equipped CMVs, and recognize the difference between human operators and ADS.
Automatic Emergency Braking Systems
Stage: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Projected 1/30/2023)
This joint rulemaking of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) will be seeking comments on a proposal to require and/or standardize equipment performance for automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems on heavy trucks. The rulemaking is expected to propose performance standards and motor carrier maintenance requirements for AEB systems on heavy trucks and accompanying test procedures for measuring the performance of the AEB systems in NHTSA compliance testing.
Safety Fitness Procedures
Stage: Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Projected 1/30/2023)
FMCSA is seeking information on how the Agency might use data and resources more effectively to identify unfit motor carriers and to remove them from the Nation’s roadways. FMCSA would seek public comment about the use of available safety data, including inspection data, in determining carrier fitness to operate. The Agency would also seek public input on possible changes to the current three-tier safety fitness rating structure. The action would also include a review of the list of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) that the Agency uses in its safety fitness rating methodology.
It should be noted that FMCSA has a poor track record of meeting the deadlines they publish in these significant rulemaking updates. However, this does give us insight into where they are headed. Notably, FMCSA intends to use the regulatory process to guide the implementation of integrating electronic devices into commercial motor vehicles. For 2023 they are focusing on these three areas:
- Speed limiting devices
- Automated driving systems
- Automatic emergency braking systems
There will certainly be a lot of comments as these three rulemakings are published in the Federal Register. However, the Safety Fitness Procedures is another important rulemaking since it is a continuation of how to best use the information compiled as part of the CSA recordkeeping and scoring. The efficacy of this information has long been debated and it seems certain that this rulemaking will generate quite a few comments.
The trucking industry may view these as individual regulatory initiatives, but FMCSA’s stated vision is to “prevent all crashes, injuries, and fatalities, involving large trucks and buses.” That’s quite a tall order but the recently appointed Acting Administrator for FMCSA, Robin Hutcheson, thinks that “Zero is the right number of fatalities on our nation’s roadways,” noting a Safe System Approach that focuses on five key objectives: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and post-crash care.
It is likely that FMCSA will consider technology the pathway to make this happen. At the same time, Transport Topics just reported that according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records, eleven people were killed in crashes involving vehicles (non CMV) using automated driving systems during a four-month period earlier this year. Some automated system developers maintain that even with these problems, automated systems are safer than human drivers. The debate will undoubtedly continue for some time, especially with regards to integration into commercial motor vehicles.