Congressmen take aim at speed limiters during infrastructure hearing

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FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson testifying

The subject of a Congressional hearing earlier this week was "Oversight of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Modal Perspectives."

However, for Robin Hutcheson, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration who testified about her agency's activities, it also became an opportunity for several Republican congressmen to speak out against a proposal to mandate speed-limiting technology on all heavy-duty trucks.  

During the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee subcommittee hearing Monday, Dec. 13, Hutcheson opened her testimony by praising truckers. She said the safest drivers are the ones who have been in the industry the longest, and that FMCSA was working to understand why drivers are leaving the industry. 

Hutcheson said the funds provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act have allowed the FMCSA and its partner agencies to prioritize inspections of high-risk carriers, dedicate resources to high-risk corridors and work zones, and close loopholes to prevent unsafe carriers and drivers from ever being on the road.

She also testified about FMCSA's other engagement efforts made possible by the infrastructure law including the Women of Trucking Advisory Board, the Truck Leasing Task Force, and the agency's detention and driver-compensation studies.

But, much of the rest of her time during the question period of the three-and-a-half-hour-long hearing was spent responding to questions and comments about the proposed speed limiter rule.

FMCSA issued an advance notice of a proposed rulemaking regarding speed limiters in June. The agency received more than 14,000 comments on the issue, the vast majority of which were opposed.

The agency is expected to issue a final rule with a recommended speed before the end of this month.

Among those questioning Hutcheson about the speed limiter proposal were Eric Burlison, a Republican from Missouri; Doug LaMalfa, a Republican from California; Jefferson VanDrew, a Republican from New Jersey; Troy Nehls, a Republican from Texas; and Mike Bost,  a Republican from Illinois.

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Burlison asked, "Is it smart to mandate the installation of speed limiters when truckers are already heavily regulated? When is enough is enough?" VanDrew called the proposed speed limiter mandate "a bad idea." 

Hutcheson also had to field questions about the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program, which has suffered from a lack of participation by carriers and 18-20-year-old prospective drivers. Hutcheson said her agency is stepping up awareness efforts next month.   

You can see the entire hearing in the video below.