For the week of November 18 thru November 24, 1998  

Brake the trucking industry

Idaho needs to brake the trucking industry.

Last winter, the Idaho Legislature increased limits on truck weights on certain highways in Idaho. At the same time, it set the speed limit at 65 mph for trucks traveling on interstate highways. The speed limit for smaller passenger vehicles is 75 mph. It looked like a quid pro quo, higher weights in exchange for lower speeds.

The difference in speed is supposed to make highways safer. It is supposed to make it easier and less intimidating for drivers of smaller vehicles to pass monster freight trucks. The lower speed should mean the big rigs can stop faster, which is important when things go wrong.

The trucking industry lobbied for greater truck weights. Lobbyists said heavier trucks would increase efficiency. Translation: trucking companies would make more money.

Idaho Gov. Phil Batt and the Legislature went along, in part, because they wanted to punish Union Pacific Railroad for poor shipping service that resulted after a merger.

The bigger trucks became part of a three-year experiment to see if the higher weights work on Idaho highways.

Just four months have passed since the new weights and lower speed went into effect. Anyone who’s driven on one of Idaho’s interstate highways lately knows the experiment is not working. Instead of punishing the railroad, the new law is punishing and endangering people in passenger cars.

Truckers are making other law-abiding drivers eat their dust. It’s not a matter of one or two bad apples. If there’s no state trooper in sight, the trucks roll at speeds exceeding 80 mph. From Twin Falls south, from Twin Falls north, cavalcades of trucks can be seen breaking the law every day.

This is not strictly a matter of enforcement. It is a matter of good faith. Every time the big rigs break the speed limit they break faith with the people of Idaho.

The trucking industry agreed to lower speeds in exchange for higher weights. Apparently, the industry figures it can have both, no matter what the law says.

Someone needs to slow the trucks down—namely the people responsible for passage of the law. This includes bill sponsors Rep. James Kempton (R-Albion), and Senators Cecil Ingram (R-Boise) and Bruce Sweeney (D-Lewiston). District 22 Reps Wendy Jaquet (D-Ketchum) and Tim Ridinger (R-Shoshone) also voted for the bill, while Sen. Clint Stennett (D-Ketchum) opposed it.

The legislators should call the trucking industry on the carpet. They need to deliver the message loud and clear: Abide by the truck speed limits immediately or we’ll use the winter legislative session to throw your heavy trucks off the highways.

Protecting the lives of constituents ought to more important than fattening the bottom lines of trucking companies.


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