Illinois Governor Quinn Vetos Bill That Would Raise Truck Driver Speed Limit

The Chicago Tribune reported this week that Illinois Governor Quinn used his veto powers to overrule a bill that would raise the speed limits for semitrailer trucks from 55 mph to 60 mph on interstates in Chicago and the surrounding area. The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Jim Oberweis, passed the House 114-0 and the Senate 58-0.  Oberweis said the bill was designed to reduce the differential between cars going 70 mph and trucks limited to 55 mph.

“It would make the roads safer,” said Oberweis, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin this fall. “There would be only a 10 mph differential rather than 15.”

Quinn’s responded by stating that this was all about driver safety:  “no amount of fines, penalties or jail time can ever replace the lives of those whom we have lost to fatal accidents on our interstate highways,” Quinn said.

Citing the recent traffic deaths tied to big trucks traveling at high speeds, Quinn said, “The convenience of increased speeds for truckers on roadways does not outweigh the safety risks to children, families and our dedicated public servants.”

Quinn cited a July 21 truck crash on Interstate 55 near Arsenal Road in the southwest suburbs. An Indiana trucker, Francisco Espinal Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Ind., allegedly was speeding in a work zone when his truck slammed into three vehicles, killing 5 people. He has been charged with falsifying duty logbooks used to verify that a driver is not spending too many hours on the road without rest.

I think the Governor was correct in his decision here. Obviously the Chicagoland area is one of the most congested areas with traffic and trucks make up a big percentage of that congestion. Semitrailer trucks, if not driven properly or at a safe speed, can be prone to traffic accidents. Further, the results of a truck accident can prove much more deadly than regular vehicles based on the size of a semitrailer. I do not believe Governor Quinn was overstepping his boundaries as Governor in this situation.

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CBS Radio 780 in Chicago recently reported that the Federal Government is looking to require truck drivers take an extra hour of rest while on the road. 

Every year in the U.S. some 700 people are killed and 20,000 others are injured in big rig accidents. Many of them, like the crash in Round Lake, are caused by truckers asleep, or wasted by fatigue.

It also caused the 1999 Bourbonnais Amtrak derailment that killed 11 and injured more than 100 people.

Soon, the federal Department of Transportation is expected to require truckers to stop and rest after 10 hours of driving. Now, they can go 11 hours without sleep.

Truck driver Terrance Shumake conceded, “You do have a lot of guys with the paper logs and they do fudge the log books.”

It will be interested to see if the Obama administration will make increased truck driver safety regulations a priority. Based on the statistics, it appears that this is an idea that should be looked at closely by lawmakers.

To read the entire story, click here.  

If you or someone you know has been involved in a trucking accident or car accident, then call attorney Aaron Bryant for a free consultation at 312-588-3384.

Study Shows In Cab Computers Are Distraction To Truck Drivers

The New York Times recently reported on the use of computers by truck drivers while on the road. Truck drivers remain adamant that their use of computers are not a distraction and provide less of a hindrance than the use of cell phones or Blackberrys. 

“We think that’s overkill,” Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, said of a federal bill that would force states to ban texting while driving if they want to keep receiving federal highway money.  Mr. Boyce, who said the industry does not condone texting while driving, said computers used by truckers require less concentration than phones. The trucks “have a screen that has maybe two or four or six lines” of text, he said. “And they’re not reading the screen every second.”  Banning the use of such devices, he added, “won’t improve safety.”

Safety experts have an opposing view and are determined to include computers in trucks in the texting ban. After videotaping truckers behind the wheel, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that those who used on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing, nearly crashing or wandering from their lane than truckers who did not use those devices. That figure is lower than the 23 times greater risk when truckers texted, compared with drivers simply focused on the road, according to the same study. However, the Virginia researchers said that truckers tend to use on-board computers more often than they text.

The study found that truckers using on-board computers take their eyes off the road for an average of four seconds, enough time at highway speeds to cover roughly the length of a football field.

Richard J. Hanowski, director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia institute, said videotape monitoring of 200 truckers driving about three million miles showed many of them using the devices, even bypassing messages on the screen warning them not to use the devices while driving.

“Is this any different than texting?” Mr. Hanowski said. “With either one, the risks are very high.”

But Robert D. Foss, a senior researcher at the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina, said the dispatch computers and texting devices present the same potential for distraction.

“It’s hard to accept the assertion: ‘We’re just different,’ ” he said. “You know full well this is motivated by economic considerations.”

There appears to be a strong lobby by both the trucking industry and safety experts and advocates. The statistics do not lie and based on the Virginia Tech report, computers are just as distracting as texting. It will be interesting to see if the in cab computers will be included in any proposed legislation involving the ban on texting and driving.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a trucking accident or car crash, then contact attorney Aaron Bryant at The Bryant Law Group for a free consultation at 312-588-3384.