Montana could soon widen speed differential between cars, trucks

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/27/2015

The speed differential between cars and trucks driving along portions of Montana’s fastest roadways could soon be the widest in the nation.

State law now permits car drivers to travel 75 mph on rural stretches of interstate while truck drivers are limited to 65 mph. All vehicles can travel 65 mph along urban stretches of interstate.

The Senate voted 29-21 on Wednesday, April 22, to sign off on changes to a bill that would authorize the Montana Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit for cars to 80 mph on non-urban stretches of interstate. Trucks would be kept at their current speed limit after a provision was removed that authorized trucks to travel 70 mph.

The bill, SB375, now moves to Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk. House lawmakers already approved it on a 56-43 vote.

If signed into law, Montana would join California as the only states with speed limit differentials of 15 mph. In the Golden State, cars are permitted to drive 70 mph along certain stretches while trucks are limited to 55 mph.

Rep. Alan Redfield, R-Livingston, voted in favor of the bill but said he does not like excluding large trucks from the speed change.

“I’m going to vote for this bill but I talked to one of my highway patrol buddies and he said the biggest problem they have is the differential speed between trucks and cars and somebody trying to get around one of those big trucks,” Redfield said during House floor discussion on the bill.

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, has said that roadways are safer when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

The changes in posted speeds could result in about 500 signage changes along Montana highways, according to a fiscal analysis attached to the bill. The price tag to make the needed changes is about $191,117.

A separate provision in the bill boosts speeding fines from up to $100 to a maximum of $200. It is estimated the new fine amounts would raise another $95,000 annually for the state.

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

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