An Oregon House panel has approved
a bill that could widen the speed gap for cars and trucks on rural interstate
The House Transportation Committee
voted 6-1 May 6 to advance a bill that would allow for truck speed limits to
increase from 55 mph to 65 mph while increasing car speeds from 65 mph to 70
mph on certain sections of rural interstates.
However, the bill leaves the door
open for car speeds to increase while truck speeds stay the same.
The latest version of the speed limit bill differs from
an earlier one in that a rate lower than 65 mph could be posted for
tractor-trailers and other large vehicles if safety conditions warrant a slower
“The Oregon Transportation
Commission would have the option of setting a 65, 60 or 55 mph limit for trucks,” House Transportation chairman George Gilman, R-Medford, told the Mail
Tribune. “They did not have this flexibility in the first bill.”
Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed that
measure into law in 2003. However, a study conducted by the Transportation
Commission later advised against boosting the current speed limit for cars and trucks on
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.”
Because the two speeds were linked
in the new law, the commission decided not to bump the limits.
Todd Spencer, executive vice
president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has
sought the aid of professional truck drivers in Oregon to influence lawmakers
to eliminate the speed gap, said the study’s recommendation doesn’t hold water.
“The only speed limit policy in
any state that makes any safety sense is to have a uniform speed limit. When
you look carefully at any argument to the contrary, they lack merit,” Spencer
He said the rationale used by the
Oregon Transportation Department in determining trucks shouldn’t have a uniform
limit with cars was based on their interpretation of 85th percentile speeds.
“While 85th percentile speeds are
the correct way to set speed limits they also have to reflect reality of
compliance with existing speed limits,” Spencer said. “Basically, what their
study showed is that many truckers in Oregon do comply with the lower speed limit
even though it isn’t the safest speed limit.
“The study DOT used was itself
flawed in that there is a split speed limit in the state.”
Spencer said their study measured
compliance with existing speed limits more so than it did an 85th percentile of
a reasonable speed policy.
“Had there been a uniform speed
limit when they did the study or had there been no speed limit at all, what
they would have found would have shown very little difference between truck
speeds and car speeds based on 85th percentile. That would have been a
legitimate way to set speed policy.”
HB3252 now moves to the full House
for consideration. If approved, it would go the Senate.