Illinois uniform speed bill: One step closer?

| 6/16/2009

Truckers anxiously awaiting a decision in Illinois on whether split speeds will be done away with got one step closer today to a final answer. The Illinois General Assembly went through the formality Tuesday, June 16, of sending Gov. Pat Quinn the bill to end split speed limits.

With the bill now officially on his desk, the 60-day clock starts for the governor to decide whether he will sign it into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. That would put the deadline for a decision at Aug. 16. In an effort to push the bill home, OOIDA has issued Calls to Action urging its Illinois members to contact the governor and ask for his support.

After years of calling for uniform speed limits in Illinois, OOIDA and truckers who travel the state are encouraged that Gov. Quinn will finally sign off on the effort.

Illinois law now requires large vehicles to travel 10 mph below the 65 mph speed limit for other vehicles on rural interstates.

The Illinois Senate voted 40-8 to advance to the governor’s desk a bill that would allow vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds to travel 65 mph on highways outside Chicago. The bill – HB3956 – would exempt the five surrounding “collar” counties from the rule change. House lawmakers previously approved the bill on a 77-35 vote.

The change would take effect Jan. 1, 2010.

The progress of the legislation is welcome news for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. They have fought for passage of the legislation for years. OOIDA cites federal statistics showing that split speed limits lead to more accidents.

After years of failed attempts to have former Gov. Rod Blagojevich sign legislation into law to change the speed rule, OOIDA and other trucking industry officials are optimistic the proposal has a better chance now of becoming law.

How good that chance is remains uncertain, although many Illinois truckers think Gov. Quinn will sign. Quinn spokesperson Libby White said the bill is “under review.”

Sen. John Sullivan said he is optimistic for getting the governor’s signature on the bill. Sullivan, D-Quincy, is the bill’s Senate sponsor.

Sullivan told Land Line he believes Quinn is “much more open-minded on (uniform speeds) than the previous governor. I certainly feel better about our chances there than we’ve had in the past.”

OOIDA has been in the fight for uniform speeds since the mid-’90s when the Association was able to convince lawmakers that individual states should decide speed limits – not the U.S. Congress. OOIDA pushed for this change in the law with the help of the National Motorists Association.

Since then, OOIDA has witnessed countless efforts to preserve dangerous variances in the state’s speed limits, most notably from Blagojevich. With the former governor out of the picture, OOIDA is encouraged that the lengthy battle to make the pursuit of uniform speeds an issue about safety instead of a game of politics could soon be over.

While there is reason to celebrate the bill’s passage at the statehouse, OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said there still is more work to be done.

“If we’ve learned anything from the past, it’s that you can’t take the governor’s approval for granted. Drivers should do everything they can to encourage the governor to let him know this is sound, safe highway policy and he should sign the bill,” Spencer said.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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