Starting Sept. 1, Texas speeds will be uniform, all day

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/23/2011

Truckers and other drivers traveling through the Lone Star State will soon be able to drive the same speed, night and day.

Existing Texas law authorizes drivers to travel 70 mph during the day along most rural highways. The speed limit drops to 65 mph at night. Trucks are slowed to 60 mph on farm-to-market roads.

Sections of interstates 10 and 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.

Starting Sept. 1, there will no longer be a distinction between daytime and nighttime speeds, as well as a slower speed for trucks. All vehicles will be allowed to travel the same speed regardless of the time of day.

Texas lawmakers approved the changes this spring.

Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, said it was time to rid the state of slower speeds because they are outdated.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 previously told Land Line.

Elkins said another benefit to getting rid of the outdated speed rules is it will help truckers move goods in a more efficient manner across the state.

An official with the Texas Department of Transportation said that although the speed limit changes take effect next week it could be some time before the outdated signage is removed.

Jim Cotton, spokesperson for TxDOT’s traffic division, told Land Line the Highway Patrol communicated to troopers and local enforcement about next week’s speed changes.

“As of Sept. 1, the nighttime and slower truck speeds are legally eliminated,” Cotton said. “They will not be enforceable.”

He said it might not be until the end of this year before all the old signs are removed.

Travelers could be forced to wait more than a year before another provision in the new law takes effect. As signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, speed limits on most rural highways are authorized to be increased from 70 mph to 75 mph – as long as state studies deem it safe.

Cotton said TxDOT is in the process of identifying segments of road that will accommodate the 5 mph increase.

“Those areas will be studied over the next 12 to 15 months,” he said. Higher volume roadways are being given priority.

The changes are welcome news to Texas truckers and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The Association has long advocated for uniform speeds for all vehicles on Texas roadways.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Frank Owen of Waco, TX, said the change will help close the gap between the speed that a lot of traffic travels and the speed of those vehicles that strictly follow the posted limit.

“The change will really help cut down on interactions between cars and trucks. Everyone will be going about the same speed – as it should be,” he said.

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