State Politics

Proposal would let big trucks go 80 mph on I-84, just like you

Workers affix new speed limit signs along the westbound lanes of Interstate 84, east of Mountain Home, in July 2014.
Workers affix new speed limit signs along the westbound lanes of Interstate 84, east of Mountain Home, in July 2014. Idaho Statesman file

Idaho would no longer have lower speed limits for commercial trucks on its highways and interstates, under legislation introduced Monday at the request of House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian.

“There’s a lot of confusion over that,” Palmer told the committee he chairs at a Monday afternoon meeting. “This will remove that.”

Palmer said Idaho’s one of just a few states that has dual speed limits, while most have a single limit for all vehicles.

“There’s been lots of studies both directions,” he said. “The studies seem to come up inconclusive as they’re done across the U.S.”

He asked the committee to introduce his bill “so we can talk about it some more and have some questions.” The panel agreed unanimously, clearing the way for a full hearing on the proposal.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, asked, “So if … the trucks had an equal speed to the cars, then the trucks could be traveling up to 80 mph, would that be the intent of the legislation?”

“At this time, with the speed limit at 80, that is correct, that would be the intent of that,” Palmer responded. “Most trucks are governed at 65,” with mechanical limits placed on them by the companies that own them to restrict speeds. “I’ve seen lots of times when people get held up behind the trucks, can’t move, can’t get around.” He said he hoped the single speed would encourage smoother passing, and said he’s talked to police officers who “said it would be a lot easier … just to have one speed limit.”

The current top speed limit in Idaho, which lawmakers raised in 2014, is 80 mph on rural interstates, with trucks limited to 70 mph. In urban areas, trucks are limited to 65 mph.

Last year, lawmakers also passed a new law allowing drivers of passenger cars, pickups or motorcycles to exceed posted speed limits by 15 mph while passing on two-lane roads with posted speed limits of 55 mph or more.

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