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Keep brake on semi bill


A bill to increase interstate speed limits for heavy trucks appears to be going nowhere fast –and that’s a good thing. The change isn’t justified given the dangers posed by tractor-trailer rigs.

Rep. Thomas Washburne, R-Darmstadt, is making a second attempt to change the speed limit for trucks to match the 70-mph limit for passenger vehicles.

“It drives me nuts when I come up on the rear end of these trucks and they’re going 65 mph and I’m going 70 mph,” the Vanderburgh County lawmaker told Land Line, a trucking industry magazine, after he first introduced the legislation a year ago. “That differential in speeds doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Washburne’s personal irritation aside, the speed variation is just one factor to consider, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“It may be an issue, but we think the actual speed is just as important an issue,” said Anne McCartt, the institute’s senior vice president for research. “It’s probably obvious, but there’s a great difference between a large truck and a passenger vehicle. They are so big and so heavy that it’s going to take a truck much longer to stop.”

The institute points to research showing vehicles traveling much faster or much slower than average were more likely to be involved in crashes, but involvement in severe crashes increased with speed.

“The risk of death and severe injury is a direct exponential function of speed, not speed differences,” it concludes.

Kim Norton, deputy chief for the Orland Fire Department in Steuben County, also takes issue with Washburne’s views on speed variation.

“I don’t agree with that at all,” said Norton, whose jurisdiction includes the Indiana Toll Road. “I’ve responded to between 700 and 1,000 accidents in the last 44 years and I would say that, unequivocally, (speed variation) hasn’t had anything to do with any of them. It’s more about how the trucks handle themselves in bad weather and driving too long without rest.”

The deputy chief also noted what every motorist already knows: many trucks already are going 70 mph.

“If the speed limit is raised to 70, they will go 75,” he said.

House Bill 1149 isn’t on the Committee on Roads and Transportation agenda, nor should it be. There’s no good argument for increasing the truck speed limit on Indiana’s interstate roadways.