Texas House OKs uniform speeds all day

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Truckers and other drivers in Texas could soon be allowed to travel at the same speed, night and day.

Texas law now authorizes motorists to travel 70 mph during the day along most rural highways. The speed limit drops to 65 mph at night. Trucks travel slower than other vehicles throughout the day.

Sections of Interstate 10 and Interstate 20 in west Texas are posted at 80 mph during the day for motorists while trucks are limited to 70 mph. Speeds for all vehicles are lowered to 65 mph at night.

The House voted 146-2 on Monday, April 18, to advance a bill to the Senate that would increase the speed limit on most rural highways to 75 mph day and night – as long as state studies deem it safe. In addition, any speed differential between cars and trucks would be eliminated.

The 80 mph speed limit in west Texas would also apply to all vehicles 24 hours a day.

Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, pointed out that Texas is the lone state in the country with slower nighttime speed limits. He said it is time to make a change because the slower speeds are outdated.

“This is a leftover from the past. Every other state has abolished slower nighttime speed limits. It’s obviously not a safety concern,” Elkins told Land Line.

Another benefit to the change noted by Elkins is that the 75 mph limit would help truckers move goods in a more efficient manner across the state.

If approved, cities would have authority to establish speed limits, based on engineering and traffic studies, for highways that run through their municipalities. Speed limits for all vehicles would be required to be the same day and night.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the only speed limit policy that makes sense is to have all vehicles traveling at the same speed.

“In every instance that lawmakers look at the issue of speeds the only policy that makes sense is having all vehicles travel at or close to the same speed,” Spencer said.

Elkins made the same point.

“Everybody should be able to drive the same speed. When you have trucks driving a different speed, it creates a hazard,” he said.

Critics say higher speed limits will result in less fuel efficiency. They also question the wisdom of acting while fuel prices are rising.

OOIDA Senior Member Danny Schnautz of Pasadena, TX, said he favors the change. He said it is up to him to decide what works best. Schnautz is in charge of operations, sales and accounting for Clark Freight Lines in Pasadena, TX.

“We all balance out efficiency with productivity. We do that as we work and drive every day. It’s up to me to decide where my balance is for productivity,” Schnautz said.

Elkins also addressed the concern about fuel efficiency.

“My experience is that people are already driving 75,” Elkins said. “So they must not be too concerned about it.”

The bill – HB1353 – is awaiting assignment to committee in the Senate. If approved there, it would move to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk.

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

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.

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