Higher speed limit won’t advance

Semitrucks unlikely to go 75 mph, opponents say

BOISE – On a 5-4 vote, an Idaho Senate committee Thursday 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, sponsored the bill. “The primary issue that brought this forth was safety,” Hammond said. “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 trucks aren’t built to maintain a 75 mph speed.

“They’re engineered that way,” she said. “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.”

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.

“If we have the largest number of operators, these larger fleets, still maintaining a lower speed limit, we won’t have accomplished anything,” said state Sen. Chuck Winder, a Meridian Republican and former chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board. “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.”

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

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

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