The Question Surrounding Semi Speed Limits: to Speed or Not to Speed

March 21, 2014

Last August in 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed new legislation that increased the speed limit on our state’s rural interstate highways to 70 mph, putting us in line with more than two-dozen other states that have already instituted such measures. One group of drivers on the road couldn’t be happier about this new measure: semi-truck drivers. They can benefit greatly from these new changes. However, the very changes that seem to benefit the trucking industry so much are the same ones that have other motorists and the Illinois Department of Transportation worried.

What’s the Problem?

Could higher speed limits cause more frequent and severe semi-truck crashes?

There are two valid sides to the debate, and individual states—and even the counties themselves—get to decide what’s best for their own areas. So, before you hold fast to your opinion about semi-trucks getting higher speed limits, it’s good to see some of the pros and cons from each side.

Pros of Faster Speed Limits for Semi-Trucks

  • Drivers have deadlines and time schedules to meet. Faster speed limits allow drivers to get to their destinations more quickly.
  • Drivers are often paid by the mile. Faster speeds mean a faster turnaround time. This allows for optimal income for drivers.
  • There are time restrictions and sleep requirements for drivers. Faster speeds allow drivers to travel further before needing to sleep, while still following the law.

Cons of Faster Speed Limits for Semi-Trucks

  • As semis travel faster, there is an increased likelihood for multi-car traffic accidents.
  • Faster truck speeds result in higher fuel costs for trucking companies and more frequent mechanical problems and truck repairs.
  • Faster speeds restrict driver control on hazardous road conditions, and can result in truck accidents.
  • An 80,000 pound semi truck traveling 70 mph will require more time to stop in an emergency than one traveling only 55 mph. Every second counts in a dangerous traffic situation.

The issue of maximum speed limits for semis can be a hot button topic for many individuals—both the inside and out of the trucking industry. But, in reality, the most important factor to consider—above company revenues, driver paychecks, or tire wear—is public safety. Does increasing the speed limit for semis put drivers and other motorists at risk of greater harm?

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