State Sen. Lynn Wachtmann isn't doing anyone any favors -- except perhaps some in the transportation industry -- in crusading for higher truck speeds in Ohio. His bill to accelerate the legal limit for trucks from 55 mph to 65 mph has died in committee. Good. Put a stake through it and leave it there.
The Napoleon Republican blames the failure of his measure to race through the legislative process on the public's “negative feeling toward trucks” and on the reluctance of the ticket-writing Ohio State Highway Patrol to “... give up their revenue stream.”
Obviously it hasn't occurred to Mr. Wachtmann why the public has such a negative impression of semis barreling down the interstate at 70-plus mph. The swaying truck tonnage alone is already worrisome enough.
Trucks traveling way over the speed limit can't stop on a dime, and some of those triple-trailer rigs are downright frightening to other drivers on the road. Thank goodness for every state trooper who pulls over a speeding semi, making the road safer until the next truck races by.
As for making money on the backs of speeding truck drivers, the highway patrol doesn't. Patrol spokesman Lt. Gary Lewis says all traffic fines from state tickets go to the counties, and they send a portion to the state's general fund. The patrol, funded by the gasoline tax, doesn't get a dime from the tickets it writes.
“The main objective [of the lower truck speed] is trying to reduce traffic fatalities, not raise revenue.” explained Lieutenant Lewis, as if any explanation were needed. But apparently the senator is slow to grasp the concept that speed kills and trucks that fly past you at 10, 15, and 20 mph above the legal 55 mph will only push the envelope further if they're allowed the same 65 mph speed limit as cars.
While some in the trucking industry, like the Owner Operators and Independent Drivers Association, think faster is better for haulers on deadline, others, like Vern Garner, disagree. The president of Garner Trucking in Findlay says trucks are already going too fast in Ohio and raising the speed limit would have the potential to “massacre people” on state highways.
Curiously, the Ohio Trucking Association refused to take a stand in the truck speed-limit debate, but the American Automobile Association and the Ohio Department of Transportation joined the chorus of opposition to the Wachtmann bill and a companion measure in the House.
Yet, with public, police, transportation, and some trucking antipathy toward raising the truck speed limit, the obstinate Mr. Wachtmann still plans to reintroduce his proposal during the next legislative session.
The idea, like a motor home in the fast lane, just isn't up to speed.