recommended it, but drivers shouldn’t expect to be cleared for faster travel on
Oregon’s freeways anytime soon.
Department of Transportation study released Aug. 13 advises against boosting
the current 55 mph speed limit for trucks and 65 mph limit for cars on rural
At issue is a
state law that cuts in half the speed differential between cars and trucks.
The study said
that while it was reasonable to raise car limits to 70 mph, “the engineering
analysis supports a speed limit of 60 mph for trucks and not a higher limit.”
During the 2003
legislative session, lawmakers authorized the Oregon Transportation Commission
to raise the speed limit on certain sections of rural interstates to 65 mph for
trucks and 70 mph for cars.
“That is the
bugaboo for every one of these segments. It is not safe and reasonable for
trucks to go 65,” David Thompson, Oregon Department of Transportation
spokesman, told The Oregonian.
The state traffic engineer, however, would
support 70 mph for cars if the legislation were changed to restrict trucks to
60 mph, Thompson said.
executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association,
which sought the aid of professional truck drivers to influence lawmakers and
Gov. Ted Kulongoski to endorse the legislation reducing the speed gap, said the
study’s recommendation doesn’t hold water.
“Forty-two of the lower 48 states have truck speed limits
of 65 mph, or higher. For Oregon’s engineering analysis to show that trucks
aren’t capable of safely driving more than 60 mph flies in the face of
virtually every highway safety analysis that’s ever been done,” Spencer said.
Spencer said, the
overwhelming majority of highway safety analysis shows highways are safest when
all vehicles are traveling at the same speed.
“By having one
speed limit that all vehicles comply with you minimize the need for passing,
lane changes, tailgating, and other maneuvers that create opportunities for
drivers to make mistakes,” Spencer said. “This isn’t physics or rocket science.
It’s simple common sense that highway engineers have known and followed for
“While we would
have preferred the legislation totally eliminate the split between cars and
trucks, a 5 mph differential is better than 10.”
highway fatality statistics, released earlier this month by the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seem to support OOIDA’s assertion that
split speeds decrease highway safety.
highway fatalities jumped 17 percent in 2003. The state had the third highest
percentage increase in total highway deaths in the United States last year.
on the Oregon speed proposals are scheduled in Eugene, Grants Pass, Portland,
The Dalles and LaGrande Aug. 23-27.
The commission plans
to make a final decision on Sept. 30.