By Keith Goble
state legislative editor
Trucks traveling rural, interstate highways in Illinois soon will no longer be restricted to 55 mph. Compliments of action taken this past summer by Gov. Pat Quinn in signing a bill into law, vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds will be allowed to travel 65 mph on highways outside Chicago and the five surrounding “collar” counties.
The change was championed by OOIDA and Illinois truckers who have relentlessly pushed for uniform speeds throughout the state. While eagerly waiting for the day all vehicles will be traveling at the same speed on most rural interstates, truckers in Illinois will have to wait a little longer until the change is made.
Despite a Jan. 1, 2010, effective date for the uniform speed rule, signs limiting large trucks and other affected vehicles to 55 mph won’t start coming down until the following week.
Paris Ervin, an Illinois Department of Transportation spokesperson, said the State Police requested the delay. The process also will be slow.
“We will begin making alterations to the signing on Jan. 4, 2010, weather permitting. If everything goes well, we anticipate the signing changes to not take longer than a couple weeks,” Ervin wrote in an e-mail.
The old signage will be removed. On unaffected interstates, and non-interstate highways posted at 55 mph for trucks, campers, trailers and motor homes, signage will be replaced with a standard 55 mph speed limit sign and a “Trucks Over 4 Tons” plaque.
The cost to the state to make the changes is estimated at about $75,000.
According to Ervin, in instances where truckers are traveling along portions of roadway posted at 55 mph that they believe should be 65 mph, the best policy is to “follow the posted speed limit and give IDOT time to make the changes.”
If travelers feel there is a sign posted in error, Ervin asks that they notify IDOT so the location can be reviewed.
Although elimination of the speed gap on most interstates in Illinois is the most notable rule change for the New Year, other states are implementing laws of interest as 2010 begins. Here is a sampling of new laws.
In Georgia, a new law increases maximum speeding penalties. Effective Jan. 1, 2010, it tacks $200 fines onto traffic tickets for “super speeders.” Penalties could be applied to those caught driving more than 85 mph on interstates and four-lane roads, or more than 75 mph on two-lane roads.
Starting Jan. 1, Illinois, Oregon and New Hampshire will be added to the list of 15 states to enforce texting bans. Of particular interest to truckers, Illinois makes an exception for Qualcomm-type devices.
A similar rule change also taking effect in Illinois forbids talking on a cell phone while driving through construction or school zones. However, it still permits use of hands-free devices.
In Oregon, use of hand-held cell phones and text messaging are prohibited. Talking on a phone equipped with a hands-free device will still be permitted for drivers 18 and older. For truckers, CB radios will be exempted. Also, exceptions will be made for persons operating a vehicle within the scope of employment. LL