By the time HB 676 came up for discussion, it was nearly 10 p.m. A once jam-packed hearing room was mostly deserted. Most of the dozen professional truckers who had come to testify were long gone, headed back to the their trucks to continue their trips, reports the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn., which was there to testify.
Rep. Carl Isett, the bill's sponsor, of Lubbock, TX, presented the legislative proposal, citing the safety problems of differential speed limits. The west Texas lawmaker said his motives were entirely about safety. "I drive 30 to 35,000 miles each year. I see the interactions between cars and trucks and I have to pass these trucks on two-lane highways," Isett said.
OOIDA executive vice president Todd Spencer and OOIDA member Clifford Floeck testified. Due to the late hour, committee discussion of the bill was almost nonexistent. Rep. Fred Hill, of Dallas, the lone "no" vote on the committee, challenged Rep. Isett, saying, "This is really all about money. Faster speeds mean more miles and more money."
In a jovial but very deliberate move, Hill asked the bill's sponsor if he would be open to an amendment that would increase fines for trucks exceeding speed limits if this legislation becomes law. Similar legislation has been introduced in several other states, including Missouri and Arkansas. Isett said, "We can talk about it."
The committee then voted to pass HB 676 without amendments.
From here, the bill goes to the calendars committee, where similar legislation stalled two years ago.