Truckers push for uniform 65 mph speed limit in Ohio
Group cites safety of a uniform Ohio speed
Saturday, January 31, 2009 Karen Farkas
Plain Dealer Reporter
Ohio is dubbed "Slowhio" by truckers, and they say it's for good reason.
Big rigs must drive 55 on highways, while cars and other smaller vehicles whiz by at 60 or 65 miles an hour. Only the Ohio Turnpike allows truckers to go the same speed as cars.
But the push is on for a 65 mph speed limit in the state for all vehicles, including trucks.
The Ohio Trucking Association, which had been neutral on raising the limit, wants a uniform speed for the state, similar to what many others already have.
"We are going to move forward to try and put the limit to 65 on interstates," said association President Larry Davis. "We had felt there were savings in fuel in going slower. But when you weigh that against the crashes, we think it is safer to go all one speed."
Ohio is one of only four states with a 55 mph speed limit for trucks. Others have higher limits. And Ohio is one of only 11 states where the limit is different for cars and trucks.
Previous efforts by state legislators for a uniform speed limit of 65 mph, which requires legislative approval, failed after they faced stiff opposition from the State Highway Patrol.
Davis, whose organization represents more than 1,000 trucking companies in the state, believes fewer accidents occur with one speed limit. He said many accidents happen when car drivers trying to pass truckers cut in too soon and run into the back of slower trucks.
He said a uniform speed limit is safer and has worked well on the Ohio Turnpike, which was given approval by the state in 2004 to raise the truck speed limit to 65 to lure truckers - who had started driving on parallel roads - back to the 241-mile toll road.
Lt. Shawn Davis of the Highway Patrol disagrees about the safety issue, saying it is more dangerous for trucks to go faster.
He said a 2006 study on turnpike accidents following the speed-limit increase showed crashes involving commercial vehicles went up 32 percent.
Turnpike commission spokeswoman Lauren Hakos said crashes are caused by a number of factors, including speed.
"A uniform speed of vehicles in traffic results in the safest operation because it keeps vehicles flowing smoothly and allows motorists to navigate without speed variance, which can contribute to crashes," she said.
The Highway Patrol has said a 40-ton truck traveling at 65 mph takes 100 feet longer to stop than one traveling at 55 mph. The faster truck also would do more damage in a collision, the patrol said.
"Obviously we would have significant concerns with raising the speed limit for the complete state," Davis said.
National studies have come to different conclusions about uniform speed limits.
A safety study by the American Society for Civil Engineers published in 2006 that compared accidents in areas with uniform speed limits to those with different speed limits for cars and heavy trucks concluded the speed limit differences had little or no impact.
Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have shown accidents and deaths increase when speed limits for all vehicles are raised.
State patrol officials in Arizona and Colorado, which have speed limits of 75 mph for trucks and cars, said they were unaware of any safety problems because trucks travel as fast as cars.
"It's worked out fine," said Trooper Gilbert Mares of the Colorado State Patrol.
The American Trucking Association, which represents the nation's trucking companies, asked Congress this week to enact a national 65 mph speed limit for all vehicles, saying it would save fuel and reduce crashes. Many Western states have speed limits as high as 75 mph for truckers.
"It would be safer to have it lower because it would reduce speed and the severity of crashes," said association spokesman Clayton Boyce. "And it also makes crashes more avoidable because you have more time to react."
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, disagrees that some speed limits are too high, but he agrees with Boyce that car and truck speed limits should be uniform.
Spencer said he is frustrated in Ohio, where he has lobbied for uniform speed limits.
"That would be and always has been the intelligent thing to do in Ohio," he said. "The only speed policy that has any basis of safety at all is one where you have all vehicles traveling at the same speed."
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