An effort underway at the Montana statehouse would make more uniform speed limits for cars and trucks.
The House Transportation Committee discussed a bill on Wednesday to do away with the state’s existing speed limits for large trucks traveling on state highways.
Currently, trucks traveling on state highways are limited to 60 mph during the day and 55 mph at night. Motorists are permitted to travel 70 mph during the day and 65 mph at night.
Sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier, R-Fort Benton, HB393 would raise the truck speed limit to 65 mph on all noninterstate highways for all hours of the day. The change would also eliminate the nighttime speed differential between cars and trucks. A 5 mph differential would be set for daytime speeds.
The increase to 65 mph would match speeds permitted for large trucks on interstate highways throughout the day. Cars may travel up to 80 mph on rural interstates.
A proposed amendment to the bill calls for permitting large trucks to be able to travel 70 mph throughout the day on rural stretches of interstate.
“The speed limit should be set to keep traffic flowing freely,” Kassmier testified on his bill. “If more traffic is traveling at the same speed there should be less need to pass, which will help reduce accidents.”
“It is my belief that allowing traffic to flow more freely is in the best interest of everyone’s safety.”
Barry Stang, executive vice president of the Motor Carriers of Montana, Helena, said his membership supports uniform speeds on all highways in the state. He noted that speed studies are needed to see what is the appropriate posted speed for certain highways.
The Montana Highway Patrol estimates the changes sought in the introduced version of the bill would result in a 75 percent reduction in speeding citations, according to a fiscal note.
Citations for speeding range from $55 to $155. State troopers estimate the violations account for nearly $14,000 in revenue that is divided between the state general fund and the originating county.
Transportation Committee Chairman Denley Loge, R-Saint Regis, decided to hold the bill until comment is available from the Montana Highway Patrol and the state Department of Transportation. Neither was present at the hearing.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles may travel at the same rate of speed. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.
“Our members are opposed to differential speed limits because they are counterproductive to safety, limit the ability of truck drivers to fully control their vehicles, and negatively impact the behavior of other drivers and vehicles,” Matousek communicated to the bill sponsor.
“Ultimately, they create more interactions between cars and trucks, which leads to dangerous passing, aggressive driving, and an increase in the number of accidents.”
Matousek adds that speed differentials are also a contributing factor to increased congestion and inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement.
The House Local Government Committee on Tuesday tabled a bill that intended to restrict the use of compression engine brakes. The committee action essentially kills the bill for the session.
Sponsored by Fred Anderson, R-Great Falls, HB321 called for allowing a local government to limit the use of compression engine brakes.
Anderson told the committee he received complaints about Jake Brakes being used near homes along highways in his district.
Stang informed the panel the engine brake is a safety device used to improve slowing large vehicles. He added that it is already against Montana law to use an unmuffled engine brake.
“I can understand the frustration of people on Gore Hill,” Stang said.
He encouraged MDT to make sure signs are posted about the prohibition on unmuffled engine brakes, and also suggested an enforcement effort in the area to make sure trucks are not in violation of the rule.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Montana, click here.
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