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Idaho decides not to let trucks drive 75 mph

Thu., Feb. 2, 2012, 3:11 p.m.

BOISE - On a 5-4 vote, an Idaho Senate committee has killed legislation to allow big trucks to drive 75 mph on the state’s freeways, just like cars.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, the bill’s sponsor, said, “The primary issue that brought this forth was safety. … Throughout my service on this committee, I have heard how safety is always enhanced when you’ve got all traffic flowing at a common speed.”

However, he said, “I also learned that it’s really unlikely that common speed can be achieved, based on the fact that most trucks have speed limiters. … Also some drivers will just choose to drive a lower speed than the maximum speed.”

Deborah Johnson, general manager of a Caldwell trucking company, said, “The problem we have is trucks will go slower. They’re engineered that way. We can’t go up King Hill faster than 35, I don’t care what the sign says, I’m not going to go faster because I can’t go any faster. So we’re always going to have that gap between trucks and cars.”

Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, who owns a trucking company, said, “I would very much like to lower the speed of cars down to trucks. I think that’s the most logical thing do to, but we will never do that, that’s not practical.”

Idaho’s top speed on rural interstates is 75 mph for cars, and 65 mph for trucks; that’s been the case since 1998.

Since the bill was introduced, lawmakers have been informed that most large trucking firms limit their truckers to 62 to 65 mph for the best fuel efficiency and tire wear, and some install regulators that prevent the trucks from traveling faster.

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, a former chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board, said, “If we have the largest number of operators, these larger fleets, still maintaining a lower speed limit, we won’t have accomplished anything. All we’ll do is maybe turn some of the renegades loose from Mississippi or Tennessee or something like that, that go flying through our state. And I think the general traveling public in a smaller vehicle are very uncomfortable with the faster speeds.”

Said Sen. John McGee, “I’m not prepared to support it without more of a consensus that it’s the right thing to do from a safety perspective.”

Hammond said he appreciated all the input about the bill, and felt the discussion was an important one for the state to have. “I would’ve been really surprised had it passed,” he said.

He was joined by three other senators in backing the bill: Corder; Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot; and Sen Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson.

Opposing it were Winder, McGee, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint; Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello; and Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise.

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