Last week, the Michigan House Transportation Committee heard testimony concerning a bill that would create uniform speed limits on the state's highways. But the state Department of Transportation is asking for an alternate proposal that one trucker's organization calls unacceptable.
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. Vice President Todd Spencer and OOIDA Secretary Bob Esler (a Michigan resident) were on hand to speak to committee members about the positive impact of uniform speed limits on highway safety. In his remarks, Spencer cited numerous studies and quoted safety experts and government officials that support the safety of uniform speed limits. Esler spoke about his 30 years as a trucker, and addressed concerns about longer braking distances, pointing out that with highway driving, panic stops are a rarity. Esler told committee members that truckers are able compensate for longer braking distances by their ability to see further down the highway and anticipate problems.
The Michigan Department of Transportation opposes raising truck speed limits outright, asking the bill's sponsors instead for a "study" of higher truck speed limits. A study would raise truck speeds on certain stretches of rural interstates for a period of one year to see what effect the higher truck speed limits have on safety.
It appears that MDOT is working behind the scenes, lobbying for a 60 mph test, according to OOIDA. "A 60 mph study is unacceptable," says Spencer. "Just shaving 5 mph off of a 15 mph differential is not a positive step toward improving highway safety. It's simply a politically motivated response not supported by any available safety data. Studies prove that most drivers tend to travel the speed they believe to be reasonable and prudent. The 85th percentile speed for trucks is currently 66 mph in Michigan. All differential speed limits do is contribute to speed variances or make lawbreakers out of safe and otherwise law-abiding truckers."
After much discussion, the committee adjourned without voting on the bill or the proposed study, but is expected to take up the issue again soon.
The bill, HB 4377, is sponsored by Reps. Vear and Jelinek.