Back when our lawmakers were debating the legislative bill to increase the speed limit for trucks on our interstate highways I sent an e-mail to our representative in Lansing. I asked him how and why he would vote for this bill. His reply was "I voted for this bill. I believe that the decrease in speed limit variation from trucks to other vehicles on the road will create a safer driving environment on highways."
Michigan now has a 60 mph speed limit in place for trucks on interstate highways. While traveling our interstates at the maximum allowable speed I find myself all too often looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing a large chrome grill with the word 'Peterbilt' written across it. I hate to say it but I really don't feel any safer. Other states have 60 mph limits but their truck weight limits are much lower, some as low as 80,000 lbs., as opposed to our 160,000 lbs. The legal drive time for a truck driver was raised to 11 hour shifts a few years back. How are your reflexes after driving for 11 hours?
I read an article stating one out of every four tractor-trailer rigs would not pass a federal safety inspection. While having my first cup of coffee every morning I listen to the weather and traffic report. It seems to me the frequency of trucks jack-knifing, rolling over, or involved in accidents on our interstates has increased. The result is thousands of hours of lost productivity for commuters, not to mention the added stress for those caught in these back-ups.
After the bill passed I looked at the legislature Web site to see how the vote went. I was surprised to find only 10 or 12 out of a 140 voted against the bill. Our people in Lansing say they made us safer. Are you feeling safer yet?
A couple of months ago I sent three emails to lawmakers asking what the total cost was to implement this bill. Two did not respond, the third did and wasn't sure about the final figure, but placed it at a million plus. I can't help but wonder how you weigh the benefit for the taxpayers, against the cost to the taxpayer if you don't know the cost! If a state legislature did this very often, a state could wind up in financial trouble.
Now bill H.B. 4974 has been introduced in our legislature. It would allow an increase to loading maximum by 10 percent of "field produce" for agricultural trucks. If we open this door how many trucking lobbyists will be in Lansing wanting exemptions for other trucks? Most of the bridges these trucks will be crossing on secondary roads were designed and built long before trucks were able to haul 160,000 pounds.
We may not have the most astute state lawmakers among the 50 states but we do have the most. You know, I think that's the only category Michigan is first in among the 50 states, except maybe taxation.