by Ruth Jones
Senior Editor Years of determination and perseverance by OOIDA and Texas truckers finally paid off. In June, Gov. George W. Bush signed HB 676 into law. Beginning Sept. 1, speed limits for cars and trucks will be the same on most Texas highways. This means rural interstate highway speed limits will be 70 mph day/65 mph night. Expect these higher truck limits to be rigorously enforced. Signs will begin coming down on Sept. 1, and it may take some time to get them all down. TX DOT is looking into using private contractors to speed up the process.
Speed limits for trucks will remain unchanged on farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads (60 mph day/55 mph night). A provision of the bill gives county commissioners the go-ahead to petition the Texas Transportation Commission for lower speed limits (now 70 mph) for cars and light trucks on farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads without improved shoulders. These roads are statistically the most dangerous.
Congratulations to all Texas truckers who took the time to contact their state lawmakers about this critical highway safety issue. Now contact your lawmakers one more time and let them know you appreciate their support for HB 676, with special thanks to Rep. Carl Isett and Sen. Teel Bivins, the bill's sponsors. (Be aware that Rep. Will Hartnett, Sen. Carlos F. Truan and Sen. Judith Zaffirini went on record as opposing the legislation when it was voted on in their respective chambers.)
Ohio - still in there fighting
There are not enough votes in the House Transportation Committee to pass Rep. Ron Hood's HB 11. The bill calls for truck speeds to be raised to 65 mph, creating uniform speed limits on Ohio highways. On the Senate side, Sen. Richard Schrafrath's companion bill, SB 76, isn't going anywhere either. Word is the state police are opposed to uniform speed limits for cars and trucks, and Senate Highways and Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Scott Oelslager reportedly won't go against them.
A number of lawmakers have indicated they would support a test of uniform speed limits. Sen. Schafrath will reportedly withdraw SB 76 and introduce a new bill. This one will propose a one-year test of uniform speed limits on an (as yet) unspecified stretch of interstate highway. And Rep. Rex Damschroder will likely re-introduce his bill calling for a test of uniform speed limits on the Ohio Turnpike.
Ohio truckers should contact their lawmakers in both houses and urge them to approve a test of uniform speed limits. Truckers know that traffic moves more safely and smoothly when all traffic is moving at about the same speed. Now is the time to tell lawmakers how you feel.
New York update
The Governor has signed a bill that will raise speed limits on I-481 in Onondaga County to 65 mph.
Michigan may test higher truck limits
When legislators return to work in mid-September, truck speed limits will once again be on the agenda, this time as a proposed test. During a May hearing on a bill for uniform speed limits (HB 4377), Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) opposed raising truck speed limits outright. MDOT asked instead for a "study" where truck speeds would be raised to 60 mph on rural interstates for a period of one year, still leaving a 10 mph differential. Sponsors and proponents agreed to a study, but rejected MDOT's 60 mph proposal. Tentative agreement was reached on a proposal to raise truck speed limits to 65 mph on rural interstate highways (still leaving a five mph differential) for a one-year test period. At the end of the one-year period, lawmakers will review the study and propose changes in the law.
Oregon legislature approves higher speed limits
Oregon legislature approves higher speed limits The legislature approved raising truck speed limits to 70 mph and car speed limits to 75 mph on rural interstates, narrowing the differential to five mph. The original version of SB 558 called for 75 mph for cars and 65 mph for trucks, but the House amended the bill to raise truck speeds. The bill was sent to the Gov. Kitzhaber on July 22. He has until Sept. 3 to act on the measure.
Other legislative news
Oregon lawmakers dump weight-mile tax
After a week of close votes and intense lobbying, the Oregon legislature axed the state's weight distance tax and replaced it with a 29 cents-per-gallon diesel tax. The bill mandates that taxes paid by "light vehicles" (cars) and "heavy vehicles" (trucks) be "fair and proportionate to the costs incurred by the highway system because of each class of vehicles." The legislature will review this division of highway user responsibility every other year, and adjust tax rates if necessary. The measure now goes to the governor.
Oregon gets tough on urine dumping
HB 3530, relating to the improper disposal of human waste, was signed into law on July 13. Vehicle drivers or riders who throw or place containers of human urine and/or feces along the roadside will be fined $250.
Ohio bill may end ticket quotas
House bill 394, introduced by Rep. Ron Young, seeks to prohibit requiring law enforcement officers to issue a minimum number of traffic tickets on a periodic basis. The bill also would forbid using an officer's traffic ticket numbers as a major part of his/her job performance evaluation.
Illinois hikes registration fees
Truck and trailer registration fees will increase a whopping 25 percent under a plan intended to raise funds needed to fix Illinois highways. Gov. George Ryan initially proposed a 15 percent increase in registration fees for trucks and doubling auto licensing fees. Legislators backed away from doubling auto registration fees and chose to hammer truck owners instead. The cost to register a class 8 truck will jump by about $550 a year. The cost of auto tags will increase by $30.
Illinois raises CDL fees to beef up inspections
Getting or renewing a CDL will now cost $60. The extra $20 will go into the Motor Carrier Safety Inspection Fund to be used to hire additional officers to conduct inspections. The cost of a commercial driver instruction permit also went up to $50, with the additional $20 also earmarked for more officers for more inspections.
Arkansas interstates will get makeover
On June 15, Arkansas voters overwhelmingly approved a $575 million bond issue earmarked to repair the state's interstate highways. The plan calls for repairs within five years to 372 miles of interstate rated poor or very poor by the state's Highway and Transportation Department. Part of the revenues from the recent four cents per gallon increase in diesel fuel tax will be used to finance the bonds. With the passing of this bond issue, any justification for placing tollbooths on the state's interstate highways has been eliminated.
Don't blow it in Louisiana
A bill calling for fines as high as $2,000 for blowing state weigh stations has been signed by the governor. Under the new law, commercial vehicles under 26,000 pounds that fail to stop at a weigh station will be fined $100. Vehicles with a GVW 26,000 pounds or greater will be fined $2,000. These fines are in addition to any fines levied for other violations. The law does provide that "any vehicle which inadvertently bypasses the department stationary weight scales and returns to the scales voluntarily without the assistance of law enforcement shall not be assessed any penalty for bypassing the scales."