Still time to weigh in on Illinois split speed bills

| Friday, March 07, 2008

In recent history in the Illinois Legislature, bills that would reduce or eliminate the speed differential between trucks and other vehicles have been offered for consideration. This year is no exception.

A House panel is expected to take up discussion soon on two bills that would minimize and eliminate the speed gap between trucks and other vehicles on rural, interstate highways. Another bill that is still active is intended to be used as an incentive to reduce truck idling.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a Call to Action Monday, March 3, for Illinois truckers to contact their lawmakers regarding the bills. To read that Call to Action, click here.

Although the OOIDA Call to Action referred to the bills’ original schedule, which called for them to be discussed Wednesday, March 5, there was a change in the agenda and now the bills are not scheduled to be discussed until next week. That means there is still time for Illinois truckers and their families and friends to contact their lawmakers about the proposed legislation.

After years of failed attempts to have Gov. Rod Blagojevich sign legislation into law to change the rule that requires large vehicles to travel 10 mph below the 65 mph speed limit for other vehicles, two House lawmakers offered legislation they are hopeful will get the governor’s approval.

The House Drivers Education and Safety Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill – HB4263 – Wednesday, March 12, that would allow vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds to travel 60 mph on rural interstates.

Another bill – HB4561 – on the panel’s agenda would raise the speed limit to 65 mph on highways outside Chicago and surrounding counties.

The latest action marks the fourth time in recent years that legislation to minimize or eliminate the speed gap between cars and trucks has been offered at the statehouse.

A year ago, House and Senate lawmakers sent a uniform speed limit bill to Blagojevich. As was the case with the previous efforts, the initial margin of support in both chambers was more than the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override. But when it came time to vote for overrides, the votes just weren’t there.

The governor exercised his veto power again last year and in his veto message he made it clear he doesn’t want trucks traveling at higher rates of speed because of safety concerns.

OOIDA and other trucking industry officials have fought for passage of the legislation for years. They cite federal statistics showing that split speed limits actually lead to more accidents.

While efforts to bring car and trucks speeds in line with on another continue to draw consideration, a separate bill is intended to encourage idling reduction.

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Winters, R-Shirland, the bill would increase the maximum gross vehicle, axle, tandem, or bridge formula weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle reduction technology. Affected trucks would be authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

A similar effort was signed into law this past year in Oregon. Legislation offered this year in Missouri and Nebraska would adopt similar rules.

The Illinois bill – HB4171 – is in the House Environment and Energy Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor