Judges on the panel seemed less interested in how the rule has worked in practice than in how FMCSA justified the rule from the standpoint of safety and economic impact.
Judge Merrick Garland, for example, questioned Colette on the methodology of FMCSA’s analysis of how increased consecutive hours of driving affected crash risk. Unsatisfied with Colette’s responses, Garland chided the government attorney. “You’re not a statistician. This is a debate among statisticians.”
Colette stood by FMCSA. “Where we are statistically is within the realm of reasonableness.” But Garland responded that the analysis must be not only reasonable but also fairly transparent, noting that the appeals court has declared numerous times that the court can’t evaluate a model if the agency doesn’t expose it in the notice of proposed rulemaking.
Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg raised similar concerns, noting that the RIA doesn’t break down the components of the regulatory impact it projects. He asked, “How do the petitioners know it’s a sound number?” It’s difficult for parties to respond to FMCSA’s projections, the judge said, if the agency doesn’t disclose how the agency arrived at them. “Any number of times we have said, ‘Show your work.’”
The appeals court panel is expected to issue its ruling in the next two or three months.
- Avery Vise
OOIDA Takes Issue with ATA Petition for Mandated Speed Governors
In a Nov. 27 letter to two federal agencies, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association voiced its strong opposition to petitions by the American Trucking Associations to mandate speed governors on commercial motor vehicles.
Restricting commercial trucks to speeds below 68 mph would provide no safety benefit and would, in fact, lessen highway safety, wrote Jim Johnston, OOIDA president, in his letter to the administrators of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
On many roads, “operating a truck at or above 68 miles per hour can be appropriate, safe and legal,” Johnston wrote. Thirty states have maximum speed limits of 70 mph or higher on rural interstates.
The ATA filed two petitions Oct. 20. The one addressed to NHTSA asks the federal government to require original equipment manufacturers to activate speed limiters, also called engine governors, on all new trucks at a maximum of 68 mph. The one addressed to FMCSA asks the federal government to outlaw tampering with the devices.
ATA’s proposal is supported by no scientific evidence that speed limiters would improve highway safety, Johnston wrote. In fact, speed limiters would worsen “speed variance” between trucks and passenger cars, a well-studied and well-documented contributor to highway accidents and highway congestion, Johnston wrote.
While the ATA points to excessive speed as a factor in truck crashes, Johnston said the cited FMCSA study identified “traveling too fast for conditions” as the real problem. “Road design, traffic congestion and weather can render any rate of speed excessive and unsafe,” Johnston wrote. “None of the studies cited by ATA identify 68 miles per hour as the tipping point between safe and unsafe speeds.”
Rather than speed limiters on trucks, the U.S. Department of Transportation should seek better truck driver training, Johnston wrote. He reiterated OOIDA’s long-held position that new truck drivers are not trained properly to operate trucks on different types of roads, in different traffic and weather conditions.