Missouri bill dies; would have split speeds, shortened driving hours

| 6/11/2008

A bill has died at the Missouri statehouse that sought to slow down large trucks along major routes throughout the state. It also called for further limiting how many hours commercial drivers can spend on roads in the state each day.

The regular session ended in Missouri with a bill stuck in committee that would have required vehicles in excess of 18,000 pounds gross weight to drive 10 mph slower than the posted speed limit for all other vehicles.

House Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, offered the bill – HB1563 – that would have created split speeds on roadways around the state. Trucks would have been required to travel 60 mph on rural interstates and freeways – down from 70 mph. Where the current posted speed limit is 65 mph or 60 mph, trucks would have been slowed to 55 mph and 50 mph, respectively. Trucks entering areas that include downtown Kansas City and St. Louis would have been limited to 45 mph – down from 55 mph.

Trucks also would have been slowed an additional 10 mph in construction zones.

LeVota touted the safety benefits of slowing trucks, but the idea lacked support. The bill stalled in the House Transportation Committee.

The bill’s demise was welcome news to advocates for uniform speed limits for all vehicles. They said requiring trucks to drive at speeds slower than other vehicles does not promote safety on the highways. Speed differentials actually cause more lane changes and passing that can result in crashes, they said.

Another provision in the bill sought to prohibit truckers and other drivers from being behind the wheel for more than nine consecutive hours within the state.

Currently, state law does not have a separate set of hours-of-service regulations for Missouri intrastate truck drivers. With a few noted exceptions like agricultural operations, intrastate truckers in the Show-Me State are regulated by the federal hours-of-service regulations because state law adopts the federal regulations by reference.

Also failing to gain approval from lawmakers during the session were three bills that sought to aid consumers who have been paying more than $3.50 per gallon for fuel.

Two bills called for authorizing tax breaks. The first bill authorized knocking a dime off the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon tax on motor fuels if the average price per gallon exceeded $3.50 for three consecutive weeks.

The second bill would have mandated a 30-day price break if the average price per gallon topped $3.50. The per-gallon tax would have dropped from 17 cents to 9 cents. Once the average price topped $3.99, the per-gallon tax would have been eliminated.

One more bill would have knocked a dime off the per-gallon tax for diesel and gas purchases “for personal use.”

Consumers would have been charged 7 cents per gallon during the four-day period for the Memorial Day and Labor Day holiday weekends.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor