Monday, May 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Marilou Johanek

Up to speed for April Fool's Day

Some April Fool's Day jokes are better than others. State Rep. Bryan Williams has a real doozy he's passing around to anyone who will listen in Columbus. The Akron Republican, get this, wants to let those wild and crazy 40-ton semis whiz down Ohio's interstate highways even faster than they do. Good one. Mr. Williams says if the monster haulers are allowed to go as fast as cars, we'd all be safer because we'd all be speeding along in unison.

What a kidder, this guy. He is kidding, right? His off-the-wall logic is a hoot: If trucks were allowed to travel the 65 mph allowed cars, there would be less tailgating and lane weaving by speedsters in automobiles.

He almost had me going there for a minute. Let tractor-trailers go 10 mph faster than their 55 legal speed limit in Ohio and there will be no need for pesky cars to whip around the umpteen wheelers trundling along at insufferable snail-like speeds.

What a knee-slapper. Akron has a budding comedian representing it down at the Statehouse. I'll bet the man delivers his legislative proposals with such a straight face he fools most of his colleagues into thinking he's actually serious. No doubt there were more than a few gullible legislators and trucking industry representatives who bought Mr. Williams' faster is safer line. Chumps.

Please. Stop with the shenanigans. Anyone who has ever shared the road with a semi barreling down the highway like an immense bat out of hell knows many big rigs left 55 mph in the dust long ago. These days you're lucky if the enormous steel contraptions looming like giants over mere compacts are just going 10 miles above the legal limit. If Smokey isn't anywhere to be seen, the good buddies in their elevated cabs are more likely than not to put pedal to the metal and scare the living daylights out of smaller vehicles that could easily fit underneath them.

Oh, I'm sure there are plenty of law-abiding truckers moving down the highway of life with their mammoth machines in mint condition and their weight and transportation papers in perfect order. They're the goody-two-shoes with the 1-800 critique-my-driving signs slapped above the tail lights. But their virtuous ways are overshadowed by demon brethren whose racing vices leave them behind in a blur. Faster than the speed of light - OK, maybe not that fast, but fast enough - long- and short-distance haulers tear past mile post after mile post on their way to meet or beat delivery deadlines.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor blinding snow, nor even the flashing emergency lights of terrified car drivers inching ahead through the punishing elements, will slow some truckers on their mad dash to the finish line. See, time is of the essence for truckers, especially the owner-operator kind trying to offset the killer costs of keeping and maintaining a rig. It's not easy making ends meet in the trucking industry, but that should not be a mitigating factor in establishing higher truck speeds in Ohio.

Mr. Williams, that old joker, calls his bid to raise the legal speed for tractor trailers “a public safety issue.” Like most of us out here dodging errant semis, the state highway patrol didn't get the punch line either. Out of 61,000 commercial trucks inspected for possible safety violations last year, the patrol found 28,000 with brake infractions and ordered nearly 16,000 off the road until the problems were fixed. Wonder how many semis riding with serious safety hazards went undetected by state troopers?

If it takes a 40-ton truck rocketing down the road at 65 mph 100 feet longer to stop than one traveling at 55 mph, how much longer would it take if the same truck's brakes weren't up to par? For every responsible truck driver there is one trying to beat the system through short-cuts in maintenance, sleep, or safe-driving requirements. Think about that the next time a huge, impatient semi threatens to move into the back seat of your teensy car if you don't change lanes fast enough.

Anyone who could suggest faster is better for semis must surely be short of a full load or just clowning around for April Fool's Day. Let's give legislator Bryan Williams the benefit of the doubt. To do otherwise and take the Akron Republican even a wee bit seriously would be no laughing matter.

Marilou Johanek is a Blade editorial writer. E-mail her at

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