Washington one step closer to widening speed differential

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/31/2015

An effort nearing passage in the Washington Legislature could result in the speed differential between cars and trucks being widened along stretches of highway around the state.

State law now permits motorists to travel 70 mph on rural stretches of interstate while truck drivers are limited to 60 mph.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 10-1 to endorse a bill that would authorize the Washington State Department of Transportation to increase the posted speed for car drivers from 70 to 75 mph while keeping truck speeds unchanged.

Two other efforts to permit faster travel only on stretches of Interstate 90, however, failed to advance from committee prior to deadlines. As a result, the bills were effectively killed.

Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, said during committee discussion on the bill that he believes it is good to move forward on the issue not only on I-90 but across the state.

Washington is one of 38 states to authorize speeds of at least 70 mph. However, only six states keep trucks at speeds below 70 mph.

Allison Camden, a spokesperson with the Washington State Department of Transportation, provided testimony during a recent committee hearing on the bill. She said that widening the speed differential between cars and trucks could create additional safety concerns on the road.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes efforts that maintain a differential in car and truck speeds.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of state legislative affairs, says he has communicated with lawmakers in the state that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed. His message:

“Differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can lead to an increase in the number and severity of accidents. They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion and carbon emissions, and increase inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.”

HB2181 awaits further consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk. House lawmakers already approved it on a 78-19 vote.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.

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