Bills in seven states would alter speed limits

March-April 2020

Keith Goble

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Elected officials in states from California to Vermont are discussing possible changes to speed limit rules. Legislators in multiple states are pursuing the enactment of speed limit differentials for cars and trucks.

OOIDA opposes speed differentials

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s manager of government affairs, says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, including differential speed limits.

He adds that differential speed limits create more interactions between cars and trucks, which can lead to an increase in the number and severity of accidents.

“They are also a contributing factor to increased congestion, carbon emissions and increase inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement,” Matousek said.

California

Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Fairfield, has introduced a bill to do away with the state’s speed differential for cars and trucks.

Currently, smaller vehicles are allowed to drive 65 mph – 70 mph in certain locations – while large vehicles are limited to 55 mph.

AB1999 would eliminate language in California law that prohibits trucks to travel at the same rate of speed as motorists.

See page 33 for more information.

Illinois

Two bills would raise speed limits on two of the state’s fastest roadways.

SB2565 would change the maximum speed limit to 75 mph – up from 70 mph – on interstate highways outside of urban areas.

SB2564 would increase the posted speed on highways, roads and streets now set at 55 mph to 60 mph.

Iowa

One House bill would bump speeds on interstate highways from 70 to 75 mph for all drivers.

HF2166 would also increase the speed limit for all users on controlled-access, divided, multilane highways from 65 to 70 mph.

Oklahoma

One Oklahoma state lawmaker is trying to boost car speeds on turnpikes.

The Sooner State allows cars and trucks to travel at 75 mph on rural four-lane divided highways, including interstates. Speeds along the state’s turnpike system can be set at 80 mph for all vehicles.

A bill from Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, would revise the speed rule. SB1552 specifies the speed limit for motorists traveling on the turnpike system would be increased to 85 mph during daylight hours. Trucks could continue to travel 80 mph – regardless of the time of day.

The change would only be allowed in counties with a population of 150,000 or less.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority would be allowed to declare a “special hazard” on any portion of a turnpike included in the affected area. The authority would be required to remove the hazard and restore the 85 mph speed limit for motorists within five years.

South Carolina

A House bill addresses concern about slow-moving traffic on the state’s fastest highways.

South Carolina law now prohibits slow-moving vehicles from impeding “the normal and reasonable movement” of traffic. Exceptions are made for when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

The state DOT and local authorities also are authorized to establish minimum speed zones. Affected areas can be set when an engineering and traffic investigation shows that slow speeds on a portion of highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

H4708 would raise the minimum speed limit along the state’s interstates. Specifically, the bill reads that along highways with a maximum posted speed of 70 mph the minimum speed would be 50 mph – up from 45 mph.

South Dakota

Temporary variable speed limits would be used if a bill becomes law.

The state DOT is pursuing authorization to set differing speed limits along interstate highways, under certain conditions.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 6-1 to advance the bill.

SB21 reads that differing speeds would be allowed on stretches of interstate for “varying weather conditions, and any other factor that has a bearing on a safe speed.”

David Huft of the South Dakota DOT said the goals are simple.

“The solution we would like to propose is an effective way to reduce crashes, reduce deaths, reduce road closures, and maintain mobility for traffic when conditions are adverse,” Huft testified. “It’s not intended to be a winter speed trap.”

The bill would permit differing speed for different times of day and “different types of vehicles.”

Vermont

If one Vermont state lawmaker gets his way, travel on the state’s fastest highways would be slowed for all vehicles.

Rep. Jim McCullough has introduced a bill, H627, to reduce the maximum speed limit on Interstates 89 and 91 from 65 mph to 55 mph.

McCullough, D-Williston, has provided information about the bill to the House Transportation Committee. He highlighted the cost savings for driving at a slower rate of speed.

Data provided to the committee shows that optimal fuel efficiency for vehicles is dependent on travel at 55 mph. Additionally, driving at 60 mph reduces efficiency by 3%, and driving at 65 mph cuts into efficiency by 8%.

In addition to saving fuel, advocates say the lower speed limit would reduce crashes, and help with climate change. LL

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Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.