UPDATED: Five states consider speed changes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/1/2018

State lawmakers from Idaho to Virginia want to make changes to speed limit rules. Most efforts call for continuing or eliminating speed limit differentials for cars and trucks.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

One bill hanging on at the statehouse would permit large vehicles to drive the same speed as cars.

State law now permits motorists to travel at 80 mph on highways while commercial drivers are permitted to travel at 70 mph. Trucks are limited to 65 mph in urban areas.

House Transportation and Defense Committee Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, introduced the bill to do away with the slower speed for large vehicles.

Palmer says the separate speed limit can create dangerous scenarios for all travelers.

OOIDA supports efforts to do away with speed differentials. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, including differential speed limits.

He adds that 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, carbon emissions, and increase inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement,” Matousek has said.

Critics say that truck tires are not designed to handle speeds in excess of 75 mph. They point out that tire manufacturers say traveling faster than 75 mph can cause tires to blow out, creating safety issues.

Another point made is that many motor carriers set maximum speeds on commercial vehicles at 65 mph – to save fuel.

Palmer’s bill, H389, remains in committee with the Legislature scheduled to wrap up their work for the year on March 23.

The issue, however, is not being ignored. During recent House floor discussion on a bill focused on left lane use, Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, said the focus should instead be on eliminating the state’s car-truck speed limit differential.

“If we had a speed limit the same for all vehicles … traffic would move faster, it would move smoother, there would be less lane changes, there would be less following too closely, there would be less reduced speed limits,” McDonald said. “That creates part of the problem on interstates.”

A renewed effort at the statehouse attempts to bump up speeds on toll highways.

State law was amended in 2014 to permit 70-mph travel on rural four-lane highways and the Illinois Tollway. The tollway, however, raised maximum speeds for motorists to 65 mph and 60 mph along certain stretches. Truck speeds were capped at 60 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, the bill calls for raising the speed limit for motorists to 70 mph. Truck speeds would be required to be set within 10 mph of 70 mph.

The Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) would be exempted from the speed increase.

HB5054 is in the House Rules Committee. A nearly identical effort passed the House a year ago but died in the Senate.

Nearing a final vote at the statehouse is a bill to bump speeds to 80 mph for all vehicles. The effort has the support of Gov. Peter Ricketts.

Sponsored by Sen. John Murante, R-Gretna, the bill would increase vehicle speeds from 75 mph to 80 mph on interstates. Four-lane expressways would see an increase from 65 mph to 70 mph. Speeds on two-lane state highways would increase from 60 mph to 65 mph.

The Department of Transportation would first need to study the issue before any speed changes are implemented.

Advocates, including the governor, say the changes would be good for business and tourism.

“This approach to speed limits addresses the many concerns we’ve heard about inconsistencies with the current system” Ricketts said in previous prepared remarks.

NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis has added that the change would allow the state to approach how they set speed limits “using practical methods that align with driver expectations.”

“This provides us the tools to bring uniformity to our state’s transportation network while still considering the factors that influence speeds, such as roadway hills, curves, and shoulder widths.”

LB1009 has advanced from committee and awaits debate before the full Legislature.

Multiple bills on the move call for amending rules on speed limits.

Oklahoma already permits all vehicles to travel at 75 mph on four-lane divided highways, including interstates. A 2016 state law, however, permits higher posted speeds after a state Department of Transportation engineering and traffic investigation.

The House Public Safety Committee voted on Thursday, March 1, to advance a bill to revise the speed rule. Sponsored by Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, HB3395 specifies that 85 mph would be the maximum speed allowed on affected highways.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved an amended bill that singles out vehicle speeds along turnpikes. SB1385 would set the speed at 85 mph – up from 75 – along the Turner Turnpike, Indian Nation Turnpike, H.E. Bailey Turnpike, and the Cimarron Turnpike.

Sponsored by Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, the bill was amended in committee to keep truck speeds at 75 mph.

Both bills await further consideration on their chamber floor.

One more bill, this one from Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, would specify the maximum posted speed along the state’s fastest roadways. HB2636 would cap allowable speeds at 75 mph.

The General Assembly has approved multiple bills to revise maximum speed limits for motorists on certain highways.

SB466 and HB73 would increase posted speed limits from 55 mph to 60 mph on U.S. Route 301, all of U.S. Route 17, and state Routes 3 and 207.

U.S. Route 17 now permits 60 mph travel between the town of Port Royal and Saluda.

HB684 would increase posted speed limits from 55 mph to 60 mph on state Route 3 between the town of Warsaw and the unincorporated area of Emmerton.

HB55 would raise the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph on U.S. Route 501 between the town of South Boston and the North Carolina line.



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