States of Confusion

| August 31, 2001

Cross-country trucking contains its share of frustrations. Among the most common frustrations, according to our readers, are the varying laws and levels of enforcement they encounter as they move from state to state. Leading the list of frustrations, according to a recent Truckers News survey, are differing speed limits, lane restrictions, and size and weight rules off the national network. In fact, more than 57 percent of those responding to the survey said differing speed limits for cars and trucks and lack of uniformity among states were their greatest frustrations. Typical are comments like one from Shay Turner, an owner-operator from San Antonio, who notes that states such as California that post different speed limits for trucks and cars are a problem.

“California is a big pain because of the speed limits,” Turner says. “It makes it hard doing our jobs. Going from 75 miles per hour coming out of Arizona to going 55 miles per hour in California makes you really tired. It’s also dangerous when cars are doing 75 and you’re going 55. You get a lot of rear-end collisions from divided speeds.”

Robert Carr, a trucker from Lyles, Tenn., agrees. “Split speed limits are dangerous as cars are speeding and run up under trucks before they can get stopped or slowed down,” he says.

Since 1995, when Congress repealed the national speed limit for interstate and other federal highways, states are permitted to set any speed limit they choose. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 44 states raised their speed limits after repeal of the national speed limit. The Insurance Institute says 10 states post lower maximum speed limits for trucks than for automobiles. Maximum truck speed limits range from 55 mph in states such as California, Illinois, Oregon and Michigan to as high as 75 mph in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Maximum automobile speed limits also vary, from 65 mph to 75 mph.

The differential between maximum car and truck speeds also varies, from as great as 15 mph in California and Michigan (70 mph cars, 55 mph trucks) to as little as 5 mph in Indiana (65 mph cars, 60 mph trucks) and Arkansas (70 mph cars, 65 mph trucks).

“Split speed limits in California are about to be rethought,” says Joel Anderson, executive vice president of the California Trucking Association. According to Anderson, slower truck speeds and lane restrictions create a “wall of trucks” on some vital truck routes such as I-5, causing problems for motorists trying to enter the freeway.

“There may be too big a differential” in the speed limits, Anderson adds. “That can become a safety issue as there are more trucks on the road.”

Changing truck speed limits will not be easy, especially in California. Noting a rash of truck accidents in recent months, Stan Perez, chief of the California Highway Patrol’s Enforcement Services Division, says now “is not an appropriate time to consider raising truck speeds. When we have an increase in accidents, we’re looking at everything: speed, congestion and other factors.” Truck-involved and truck-at-fault collisions are up 4 percent in the state, according to the CHP.

Another key frustration with truckers is that some states enforce speed limits and other regulations with more zeal than other states. By an overwhelming margin, survey respondents listed California as the least trucker-friendly state in terms of regulations and enforcement.

California officials, on the other hand, don’t seem to be fazed by that distinction. “We’re enforcing the law,” says Anne DeVigo, from the CHP’s department of public affairs. “If it’s unfriendly to enforce the law, you can draw your own conclusions on that.

“Certainly you can say trucks in California are safer than anywhere else in the country,” DeVigo adds. “The trucks that cross the border from Mexico are as safe as other trucks on the road because we check those trucks at the border.”

From DeVigo’s perspective, vigorous enforcement means safer highways. “Truckers coming into California know they have to have their trucks in good shape, and that’s not a bad thing.”

States of Confusion

| August 31, 2001

Cross-country trucking contains its share of frustrations. Among the most common frustrations, according to our readers, are the varying laws and levels of enforcement they encounter as they move from state to state. Leading the list of frustrations, according to a recent Truckers News survey, are differing speed limits, lane restrictions, and size and weight rules off the national network. In fact, more than 57 percent of those responding to the survey said differing speed limits for cars and trucks and lack of uniformity among states were their greatest frustrations. Typical are comments like one from Shay Turner, an owner-operator from San Antonio, who notes that states such as California that post different speed limits for trucks and cars are a problem.

“California is a big pain because of the speed limits,” Turner says. “It makes it hard doing our jobs. Going from 75 miles per hour coming out of Arizona to going 55 miles per hour in California makes you really tired. It’s also dangerous when cars are doing 75 and you’re going 55. You get a lot of rear-end collisions from divided speeds.”

Robert Carr, a trucker from Lyles, Tenn., agrees. “Split speed limits are dangerous as cars are speeding and run up under trucks before they can get stopped or slowed down,” he says.

Since 1995, when Congress repealed the national speed limit for interstate and other federal highways, states are permitted to set any speed limit they choose. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 44 states raised their speed limits after repeal of the national speed limit. The Insurance Institute says 10 states post lower maximum speed limits for trucks than for automobiles. Maximum truck speed limits range from 55 mph in states such as California, Illinois, Oregon and Michigan to as high as 75 mph in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Maximum automobile speed limits also vary, from 65 mph to 75 mph.

The differential between maximum car and truck speeds also varies, from as great as 15 mph in California and Michigan (70 mph cars, 55 mph trucks) to as little as 5 mph in Indiana (65 mph cars, 60 mph trucks) and Arkansas (70 mph cars, 65 mph trucks).

“Split speed limits in California are about to be rethought,” says Joel Anderson, executive vice president of the California Trucking Association. According to Anderson, slower truck speeds and lane restrictions create a “wall of trucks” on some vital truck routes such as I-5, causing problems for motorists trying to enter the freeway.

“There may be too big a differential” in the speed limits, Anderson adds. “That can become a safety issue as there are more trucks on the road.”

Changing truck speed limits will not be easy, especially in California. Noting a rash of truck accidents in recent months, Stan Perez, chief of the California Highway Patrol’s Enforcement Services Division, says now “is not an appropriate time to consider raising truck speeds. When we have an increase in accidents, we’re looking at everything: speed, congestion and other factors.” Truck-involved and truck-at-fault collisions are up 4 percent in the state, according to the CHP.

Another key frustration with truckers is that some states enforce speed limits and other regulations with more zeal than other states. By an overwhelming margin, survey respondents listed California as the least trucker-friendly state in terms of regulations and enforcement.

California officials, on the other hand, don’t seem to be fazed by that distinction. “We’re enforcing the law,” says Anne DeVigo, from the CHP’s department of public affairs. “If it’s unfriendly to enforce the law, you can draw your own conclusions on that.

“Certainly you can say trucks in California are safer than anywhere else in the country,” DeVigo adds. “The trucks that cross the border from Mexico are as safe as other trucks on the road because we check those trucks at the border.”

From DeVigo’s perspective, vigorous enforcement means safer highways. “Truckers coming into California know they have to have their trucks in good shape, and that’s not a bad thing.”

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