by Andrew Crisp
The Senate Transportation Committee today voted to hold a bill that would eliminate the difference in speed limits between commercial trucks and civilian vehicles. The measure's sponsor, Coeur d'Alene Sen. James Hammond, attempted to convince his colleagues that the bill was an attempt at making highways safer.
"We’ve always believed that lower speed limits will enhance safety," Hammond told the committee, which he also chairs. "But that’s not the case. They actually create a frustration that contributes to unsafety."
Deborah Johnson, general manager of Scott Fulcher Trucking, a 30-rig outfit in Caldwell, didn't support the bill, which would let truckers travel at 75 mph, instead of the usual 65.
"One-third of my income goes to fuel," said Johnson, who insisted that the economics didn't make sense. "I can't have my trucks going faster than they're made to do. We can’t go up King Hill faster than 35. I don’t care what the sign says, we can’t go faster."
Supporters pointed out that the requirement wouldn't require trucking companies to go faster—just give them the option to do so.
"If you look at the bifurcated system, at least we’re not mandating that you have to drive 75. We need to give the trucks the ability to pass the slower trucks," said Stuart Davis on behalf of the Idaho Association of Highway Districts.
The rest of the committee wasn't convinced. While supporters like Sen. Tim Corder, the Republican from Mountain Home who owns a trucking company himself, talked about the potential, an amended motion to hold the bill in committee was brought by Sen. John McGee of Caldwell.
"Because it's such an important policy," said McGee, "I'm not prepared to support it without more of a consensus that it's the right thing to do from the safety perspective."
Hammond responded with a dig at McGee.
"If we added some kind of license plate bill to this, would you support it?" Hammond asked.
Ultimately, the committee voted 5-4 to kill the bill.