Illinois uniform speed bill: the final countdown

| 8/14/2009

By early morning Friday, Aug. 14, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn had already signed into law nearly 60 bills. They cover topics ranging from changing the definitions of “custom vehicles” and “street rods” to automated enforcement of railroad crossings. Meanwhile, truckers anxiously await word on the outcome of a bill that would do away with split speeds.

It has been a busy week for the governor. Since Tuesday, Aug. 11, he has signed nearly 270 bills while vetoing nine. And on Friday Quinn, who replaced Rod Blagojevich early this year, announced plans to run for governor in 2010.

The clock is winding down on the governor’s allotted time to make a decision on whether to allow trucks to travel at the same speed as other vehicles on many Illinois highways.

With a Saturday, Aug. 15, deadline for the governor to decide whether to sign it into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is encouraging truckers to call on Quinn to adopt the uniform speed limit legislation.

“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,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line.

To reach the governor’s Springfield office, dial 217-782-0244. To reach the governor’s Chicago office, dial 312-814-2121. To send e-mail, click here.

The Illinois General Assembly sent the uniform speed limit legislation to Quinn’s desk on June 16, starting the 60-day clock for the governor to make up his mind. That put the deadline for a decision at this weekend. 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 hopeful that Gov. Quinn will finally allow the bill to become law.

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 in May to approve 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 approved the bill in early spring.

If it becomes law, the change would take effect Jan. 1, 2010.

The progress of the legislation is welcome news for OOIDA, which has fought for passage of the legislation for years. The Association 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.

With only hours remaining until Gov. Quinn must reveal his decision, how good that chance is remains uncertain, although most Illinois truckers think he will sign. Quinn spokesperson Libby White told Land Line Friday the bill is “still under review.”

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.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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