Speed limit, car/truck differential changes pursued in 12 states

March 4, 2019

Keith Goble

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Elected officials all over the map are pursuing changes to their state’s speed limit rules. Notably legislators in multiple states are pursuing the elimination of speed limit differentials for cars and trucks, while legislation in one Western state would introduce 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.

New Mexico

One bill halfway through the statehouse would introduce a speed limit differential for cars and trucks.

New Mexico now has 75 mph speed limits for all vehicles traveling on the state’s largest highways.

The Senate voted 26-11 to advance a bill to slow down trucks to 65 mph on affected roadways. It now heads to the House.

Sponsored by Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, the bill was amended as it made its way to the chamber floor. As introduced it called for slowing trucks to 60 mph on interstate highways.

OOIDA says the bill would adversely impact the state’s motoring public and reduce highway safety.

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.

“OOIDA and our members are opposed to differential speed limits because they are counterproductive to safety, limit the ability of truck drivers to fully-control their vehicle, and negatively impact the behavior of other drivers and vehicle,” Matousek communicated to the bill sponsor.

“Ultimately, they create more interactions between cars and trucks, which leads to dangerous passing, aggressive driving, and an increase in the number of accidents.”

The bill awaits further consideration in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

California

Two notable efforts are underway at the statehouse to revise speed limit rules in the Golden State.

The first bill calls for doing away with the speed limit 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.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Santee, AB172 would raise truck speed limits to 65 mph in rural areas.

“We’re excited that at least someone in the California Legislature is interested in addressing the state’s split speed limits for cars and trucks,” Matousek said. “We look at the current speed limit laws in California as a deterrent to highway safety.”

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

A separate bill would permit faster travel for all vehicles on portions of Interstate 5 and state Route 99.

Sponsored by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, SB319 calls for adding two lanes each way without speed limits.

Moorlach said his plan is a “viable alternative” to a high-speed rail system project pursued by leading state officials for years. He said his bill would be much cheaper than the $77 billion “bullet train” project to provide faster travel between Northern and Southern California.
“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and high-speed rail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” Moorlach said in prepared remarks.

Indiana

A renewed effort in the Hoosier state would do away with speed differentials.

Indiana law now permits cars to drive 70 mph while vehicles in excess of 26,000 pounds are limited to 65 mph.

Rep. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, has introduced legislation in three of the past four legislative sessions to do away with the speed gap on rural stretches of interstates and the Indiana Toll Road.

His latest effort to permit trucks to travel 70 mph would affect an estimated 63,000 vehicles registered in the state and thousands more that access Indiana interstates on a daily basis.

If approved, the Indiana Department of Transportation has reported that 68 speed limit signs with the 65 mph restriction would need to be changed.

A fiscal impact statement attached to the bill, HB1092, notes that the expense to the state to change signage would be about $11,000. In addition, it is estimated the switch could result in fewer speeding citations.

The bill is in the House Roads and Transportation Committee.

Elsewhere, speed changes being pursed would apply to motorists and professional drivers.

Arkansas

One House lawmaker has introduced a bill that is intended to speed up conversion to higher speed limits on certain highways around the state

Arkansas law permits the State Highway Commission to increase speed limits only after completing an engineering and traffic investigation. The maximum speed limits on controlled-access highways can be 75 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, HB1631 would mandate a 75 mph speed limit on freeways outside urban areas. Speeds on urban freeways would be set at 65 mph.

The new speed limit along a stretch of roadway would revert to its previous maximum only after an engineering and traffic investigation that finds the new maximum is unsafe.

The bill is in the House Public Transportation Committee.

Iowa

Faster speeds are under pursuit at the Iowa statehouse. One bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would bump speeds on interstate highways from 70 to 75 mph.

There are 17 states that authorize speeds of at least 75 mph. Only two of those states (Idaho and Montana) allow cars to travel one speed – 80 mph – while keeping trucks at a slower speed – 70 and 65 mph, respectively.

Critics say that truck tires are not designed to handle speeds in excess of 75 mph. They point out that tire manufacturers say traveling faster than 75 mph can cause tires to blow out, creating safety issues.

Another point made is that many motor carriers set maximum speeds on commercial vehicles at 65 mph – to save fuel.

The Iowa bill is SF26.

Kentucky

House lawmakers voted unanimously to advance a bill to increase the 65 mph speed limit to 70 mph on two highways. The bill now moves to the Senate.

HB266 would add Interstate 165 to the list of highways and parkways in the state with 70 mph speed limits posted. Faster travel for all vehicles would also be authorized for the entire length of the highway.

In addition, 70 mph travel would be permitted for the entire length of the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway Extension. Currently, 70 mph travel is permitted along the parkway from I-64 to the beginning of the Mountain Parkway Extension in Wolfe County. Elsewhere on the affected parkway, a 65 mph speed limit is posted.

The bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Massachusetts

Multiple bills introduced at the statehouse would revise speed limit rules.

The first bill, H3023, would increase the state’s 65 mph speed limit to 70 mph.

Another bill, H3024, would permit the use of variable speed limits on limited-access roadways, including the Massachusetts Turnpike. Situations that would activate variable speed limits cover congestion, weather conditions, or “any other temporary factor that has a bearing on a safe speed.”

A separate 14-page bill includes a provision that covers roadway work zones. S7 would permit the Massachusetts DOT to set up temporary speed limits in work zones. Fines for speeding in affected areas would be doubled when workers are present.

The bills are in the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Missouri

One Missouri state lawmaker hopes to bump up speeds on the state’s fastest roadways.

Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Dardenne Prairie, has introduced a bill to raise speed limits from 70 to 75 mph for all vehicles on stretches of rural interstates and freeways.

Hicks’ bill, HB295, is in the House Transportation Committee.

Montana

The House voted 71-28 to advance an amended bill to raise truck speeds. It now heads to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier, R-Fort Benton, HB393 would raise the speed limit for trucks on interstate highways from 65 mph to 70 mph throughout the day. Truck speeds on all noninterstate highways would be set at 65 mph for all hours of the day.

State highways are limited to 60 mph during the day and 55 mph at night.

Cars are permitted to travel 65 mph on noninterstate highways and up to 80 mph on rural interstate highways.

“Speed limits should be set to keep traffic flowing freely. Currently trucks are set at 10 mph below the rest of traffic, which causes congestion on our highways,” Kassmier testified during a recent hearing. “It is my belief that allowing traffic to flow more freely is in the best interest of everyone’s safety.”

The bill awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.

Ohio

A provision included in the state’s two-year transportation budget would expand the use of variable speed limits around the state.

Currently, variable speed limits are limited to three locations: Interstate 90 east of Cleveland, I-670 in Columbus, and I-175 near Cincinnati.

HB62 calls for the Ohio Department of Transportation to identify roadways where variable speeds could improve driver safety. The agency would not be permitted to raise speed limits in excess of the posted maximum.

The bill is in the House Finance Committee.

Oklahoma

Multiple bills to amend rules on speed limits for the state’s turnpike system and interstate highways are moving forward.

Oklahoma already permits all vehicles to travel at 75 mph on four-lane divided highways, including interstates. A 2016 state law, however, permits higher posted speeds after a state Department of Transportation engineering and traffic investigation.

Two bills, HB1071 and SB648, would authorize the speed on the turnpike system to be raised to 80 mph – up from 75.

The bills would also permit the maximum posted speed on rural interstate highways to be increased from 70 to 75 mph.

Both bills await consideration on their respective chamber’s floor.

Oregon

Two bills of note on the Oregon Legislature cover speed limits in certain areas.

One bill would permit changes in speed limits in the state’s largest city.

HB2702 would authorize the city of Portland to designate speed on the main arterials. Currently, only the Oregon DOT is permitted to make changes.

The second bill, SB397, would allow ODOT to set lower speeds on state highway in areas of eastern Oregon with populations below 40,000 people. The speeds could be changed without doing engineering and traffic investigations.

Local authorities must request the change.

The bills are scheduled for public hearings this week in their respective chamber’s transportation committee.

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.

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