Pollution board eyes lower truck speeds in Tennessee

| 9/11/2003

Big rigs driving through Tennessee might soon have to slow down. State officials are discussing lowering the interstate speed limit for large trucks as a way for counties to meet federal air quality standards, according to local media.

The state Air Pollution Control Board is recommending a series of changes, including making the maximum speed for semis 55 mph, down from 70 mph, to reduce the amount of ozone-causing compounds going into the air.

The resolution also suggests banning truckers from idling engines for long periods and requiring companies with government contracts to use clean engine technology and fuel additives for heavy-duty equipment.

The board is trying to bring Tennessee counties into compliance with federal air quality rules that take effect in 2005.

Failure to meet the new standards by 2007 could result in an end to industrial expansion and large cuts in federal highway funding for the area.

The board’s suggestions need study, especially the lower speed limit for trucks, state Rep. Phillip Pinion, D-Union City, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told The Tennessean.

“I think it’s something we need to look at, but we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water and impose something on truckers until we know for sure that it would be of help,” Pinion said. “Trucks move this country.”

The state is a major artery for truckers, and lower speed limits would affect the income of drivers and delay deliveries, Pinion said.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said, “Tennessee truckers should embrace this discussion as an opportunity to get better acquainted with state lawmakers.”