Feds with their speed limiter proposal: 'Hold my beer'

By Jami Jones, managing editor

You know how people who are drunk think they have a good idea when, really, it's a bad idea? In the feds' speed limiter mandate deal, they might just as well have said, "Here, hold my beer."

Because FMCSA's proposal that passed through the White House last month is a really bad idea. So bad. Bad like falling out of a boat and missing the water.

It may seem overly complicated to some, but each step in the rulemaking process has a simple purpose. Those steps are in place to ensure a transparent rulemaking process that allows the public the access and opportunity to give input on regs that agencies are planning to use to dictate our lives. One of those steps is stating the proposed new rule in a clear and purposeful way.

For starters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration were granted a petition a decade ago to consider mandating speed limiters.

That didn't obligate the agencies to anything.

Yet they plod ahead. I doubt we'll ever know why, but they have. Research had to be cooked up. Literally, numbers were tortured into submission to back speed limiters. The White House obviously had serious misgivings about the proposal since it remained under review for more than a year when most proposals and new regs sail through review in about 90 days.

At every single turn this proposal has hit roadblocks, common sense being the first. It's truly baffling to see it progress to the point it has. But what clinches the deal on utter shock is what the agencies actually presented on Sept. 7 in the Federal Register as a "proposed" regulation.

This "proposed" reg proposes next to nothing. It's a federal government fishing expedition. In the proper regulatory process this would be an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. That's what that stage of the regulatory process is for. First you throw an idea out to the public for input. It's the tire-kicking stage of the rulemaking process. Try things out, see how they feel, see what the research says before buying in and creating a new regulation. That's what you do before it's proposed.

But here we are with pages of nothing remotely concrete enough to be considered a credible proposed regulation that the public can review and comment on with confidence. It's a concept - limiting the speed of big trucks - and page after page after page of questions they want the public to answer. All of this should have happened in a previous rulemaking stage.

I could spend days (actually I have spent days) wondering what in the world the plan is. It's maddening to try and figure out what they think they are doing. I had to quit before I started wearing a tinfoil hat around muttering far-fetched conspiracy theories to anyone who would listen.

Regardless of what they think they are doing, putting this proposal out and pretending it is a credible foundation for a final rule is patently ludicrous. LL