Ten states consider speed changes

January 25, 2018

Keith Goble

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

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are permitted to travel at the same rate of speed.

Idaho
One leading state lawmaker wants to permit large vehicles to drive the same speed as cars.

State law now permits cars to travel at 80 mph on highways while commercial drivers are permitted to travel at 70 mph. Trucks are limited to 65 mph in urban areas.

House Transportation and Defense Committee Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, introduced a bill on Tuesday, Jan. 23, to do away with the slower speed for large vehicles.

Palmer says the separate speed limit can create dangerous scenarios for all travelers.

OOIDA supports efforts to do away with speed differentials. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s director 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 increased inefficiencies with local, regional, and national goods movement,” Matousek has said.

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.

Palmer’s bill, H389, awaits consideration.

Indiana
Speed differentials once again are the topic of a bill in the Hoosier State.

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, offered a bill during two of the past three legislative sessions to do away with the speed gap on rural stretches of interstates and the Indiana Toll Road. The bills failed to advance from committee.

Hopeful this year will be different, Aylesworth is pursuing the change that would affect about 60,000 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 245 speed limit signs with the 65 mph restriction would need to be changed.

A fiscal impact statement attached to the bill, HB1408, notes that the expense to the state to change signage would be about $39,200. In addition, it is estimated the switch could result in fewer speeding citations.

The bill is in the House Roads and Transportation Committee.

Maryland
Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s County, has introduced a bill that would raise the speed limit on Interstate 495 from 55 mph to 70 mph for all vehicles. The bill also would increase speeds to 70 mph on I-270, and highways and interstates across the state.

Benson said the changes are needed to bring uniformity to roadways throughout Maryland. She said highway speeds can differ by as much as 15 mph in certain areas.

“Senate Bill 55 seeks to create consistency in speed limits among Maryland expressways and interstate highways,” Benson told members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

She said more consistency in posted speeds would help reduce congestion and the frequency of wrecks caused by abrupt changes in speed limits.

Benson added that varying speeds on highways “places our drivers at risk of receiving innumerable amounts of speeding citations.”

Her bill calls for signs to be posted at least every five miles.

Mississippi
Magnolia State lawmakers are reviewing multiple bills that address speed limits.

One bill from Sen. Robert Jackson, D-Marks, would authorize truckers and other drivers to travel 75 mph on rural interstates and four-lane highways.

Advocates say that many travelers in the state are already driving 75 mph. Supporters want to make sure they’re doing it legally.

The bill, SB2046, awaits consideration in the Senate Highways and Transportation and Judiciary Division A committees.

A bill in the House Transportation Committee covers large truck traffic during bad weather.

State law requires large trucks and buses to slow down to 45 mph on highways when visibility is reduced because of “inclement weather.”

Sponsored by Rep. Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson, HB849 would remove the requirement that visibility must be bad for affected drivers to slow down during snow, ice or rain storms.

OOIDA is opposed to the legislation.

Matousek has communicated to Rep. Calhoun that the provision is problematic for multiple reasons.

“First, if inclement weather is present, all motor vehicles should decrease speed at a rate of travel that is safe; not just trucks,” Matousek wrote in a letter. “Second, (the provision) is overly vague and subject to interpretation by the law enforcement community.”

He added that HB849 creates more uncertainty for truckers operating in the state by requiring them to reduce speed to 45 mph during inclement weather, not just when visibility is bad.

“It also imposes a speed differential during conditions that might reduce the ability for a car to see a slower-moving truck, thus increasing the potential for accidents and further justifying the need for uniform speed limit laws.”

Nebraska

An effort at the statehouse to bump speeds to 80 mph for all vehicles has the support of Gov. Peter Ricketts.

Sponsored by Sen. John Murante, R-Gretna, the bill would increase vehicle speeds from 75 mph to 80 mph on interstates. Four-lane expressways would see an increase from 65 mph to 70 mph. Speeds on two-lane state highways would increase from 60 mph to 65 mph.

The Department of Transportation would first need to study the issue before any speed changes are implemented.

Advocates, including the governor, say the changes would be good for business and tourism.

“This approach to speed limits addresses the many concerns we’ve heard about inconsistencies with the current system” Ricketts said in prepared remarks.

NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis added that the change would allow the state to approach how they set speed limits “using practical methods that align with driver expectations.”

“This provides us the tools to bring uniformity to our state’s transportation network while still considering the factors that influence speeds, such as roadway hills, curves, and shoulder widths.”

LB1009 is in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

Oklahoma
Multiple bills filed for consideration during the regular session that convenes Feb. 5 would amend rules on speed limits.

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.

Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, has filed a bill to revise the speed rule. HB3395 specifies that 85 mph would be the maximum speed allowed on affected highways.

A separate bill singles out vehicle speeds along the Turner Turnpike.

The toll road connects Oklahoma City and Tulsa via Interstate 44.

Sponsored by Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, SB1385 would set the speed at 85 mph – up from 75.

One more bill, from Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, would specify the maximum posted speed along the state’s fastest roadways. HB2636 would cap allowable speeds at 75 mph.

The bills await assignment to committee.

South Dakota
Temporary variable speed limits would be utilized if one bill becomes law.

The state Department of Transportation is pursuing authorization to set differing speeds along interstate highways under certain conditions.

The House Transportation Committee voted on Tuesday to advance the bill after making some changes.

HB1008 reads that differing speeds would be permitted for “varying weather conditions and any other factor that has a bearing on a safe speed.”

Removed from the bill was language to permit differing speed for different times of day and “different types of vehicles.”

Virginia
About a half dozen bills attempt to revise maximum speed limits for motorists on certain highways.

SB466, SB206, HB73 would increase posted speed limits from 55 mph to 60 mph on U.S. Route 301, all of U.S. Route 17, and state Routes 3 and 207.

U.S. Route 17 now permits 60 mph travel between the town of Port Royal and Saluda.

HB684 would increase posted speed limits from 55 mph to 60 mph on state Route 3 between the corporate limits of the town of Warsaw and the unincorporated area of Emmerton.

HB55 would raise the speed limit from 55 mph to 60 mph on U.S. Route 501 between the town of South Boston and the North Carolina line.

The bills are in their respective chamber’s transportation committee.

West Virginia
Interstate speeds are eyed for a possible boost in a House resolution. Specifically, HCR28 would require the Commissioner of Highways to increase interstate speeds from 70 mph to 75 mph “where appropriate.” Speeds along portions of the state’s corridors would increase to 70 mph from 65 mph.

Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, has written that the state’s highway system is able to safely handle the higher speeds.

A Senate bill could raise the speed on some rural highways from 70 mph to 80 mph. SB96 would permit the commissioner to study setting the higher limit on interstates and four-lane limited access highways.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, the bill is in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Two more bills address efforts to lower vehicle speeds.

HB2185 would give local authorities the ability to decrease the speed limit on streets and highways where school buses travel. The Commissioner of Highways would be required to sign-off on the change.

SB43 would authorize the commissioner or local authorities to set minimum speed limits in certain congested areas and to assess fines for violating the minimum speed limit.

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.