Arkansas adopts uniform speeds after 19 years

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/13/2015

After nearly two decades of keeping large truck speeds slower than other vehicles, Arkansas highways are days away from having uniform speeds posted for all vehicles.

The Arkansas Highway Commission approved an order on Wednesday, March 11, abandoning truck speed rules adopted in 1996. Since then, truck speeds on rural stretches of interstate have been 65 mph while motorists have been permitted to travel 70 mph. Speeds on urban interstates are posted at 60 mph for all vehicles.

Research has shown that a differential speed limit is not effective for the efficient flow of traffic, according to the order.

Danny Straessle, spokesman with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, said the agency was noticing a lot of problems with congestion along Interstate 40 in east Arkansas.

“In some instances (the speed differential) actually delays traffic or causes congestion,” Straessle told Land Line. “It was a matter of ‘Are we really accomplishing anything with a differential speed limit?’ ‘Are we hurting the situation more than we are helping?’ So the commission made the decision to just go ahead and do away with the differential.”

Weather permitting, sign crews are scheduled to start removing the truck speed signage starting Monday, March 16. Straessle said it could take one week to make all needed updates. In the meantime, he said patrol officers will use discretion when enforcing the posted speed limit.

Straessle said the commission noted that none of Arkansas’ neighboring states has a speed differential. In fact, as Arkansas makes the switch, only seven states continue to observe speed limit differentials. The holdouts are California, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association welcome the long-overdue change in Arkansas. They say that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

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