By Keith Goble
state legislative editor
Starting Jan. 1, trucks traveling rural interstate highways in Illinois no longer will be restricted to 55 mph. The change is the result of a bill signed in August by Gov. Pat Quinn, which allows vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds to travel 65 mph on highways outside Chicago and the five surrounding “collar” counties.
With long-fought battles to bring uniform speeds to Illinois and Ohio culminating in victories this year, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is turning its attention to the remaining states that need to ditch treacherous speed differentials.
The holdouts are Arkansas and Indiana where there is a 5-mph differential between cars and trucks; Texas with a difference of at least 5 mph during the day; Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Washington with 10-mph differences; and California with a whopping 15-mph difference between cars and trucks.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said the Association will continue to push these nine states hard for uniform speeds. As in Illinois and Ohio, he said the task will be much more successful with the support of the states’ trucking associations.
“Without truckers working together, any issue can become a hard row to hoe,” Spencer told Land Line.
“Having a local association on the ground working hard to support an issue is critical to effecting changes. For a decade, the Mid-West Truckers Association has been hammering lawmakers to rid Illinois of split speeds on major highways.
“It is that kind of effort that is needed,” Spencer added.
“Lawmakers will tend to go with those folks they see most often. That makes all the difference in the world.”
Spencer said it will be much tougher to accomplish these goals in states where state trucking associations are not on board.
“In California, ATA’s state trucking association supports 55 mph speed limits for trucks, and that state still has a differential. In Indiana, the ATA state chapter – the Indiana Motor Truck Association – signed off on a 5 mph speed differential between trucks and cars years ago,” he said.
Spencer said truckers need to keep the pressure on state lawmakers.
“These issues are made in state capitols and that’s where the focus needs to be. Educate those lawmakers and remind them it’s an important issue that needs to be acted on. There simply is no argument that can tout the benefits of having differential speed limits that cause vehicles to be in constant interaction, or a constant collision course,” Spencer said.
That message finally hit home in Illinois. Quinn spokesperson Ashley Cross said the governor viewed the issue as a matter of safety.
“The governor saw it as something that would help keep our roads safer. Numerous studies have shown that when you have cars and trucks driving at the same speed, that lessens the likelihood for accidents on the roads,” Cross told Land Line.
“The only speed limit policy that makes sense is to have all vehicles traveling at the same speed.” LL