JEFFERSON CITY - Against the backdrop of a deadly 24 car pile-up north of Kansas City that killed ten, Missouri's Highway Patrol Superintendent urged lawmakers to lower the speed limits of trucks.
Colonel Weldon Wilhoit said 19.5 percent of the accidents in the first 10 months of 1999 involved commercial vehicles.
"There are more serious accidents when trucks are involved," said Wilhoit.
But the chairmen of the legislature's two transportation committees expressed little hope that the bill would curtail accidents such as Sunday's catastrophe.
"I doubt this legislation will prevent anything like that. I think that was more of a problem with road conditions and not so much of a speed issue." said Sen. Danny Staples, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Although Staples did not voice a strong opinion on setting lower limits for trucks, his House counterpart expressed definite opposition. Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville, said the Democrats' $2 billion highway repair plan is a better long-term solution.
Staples pointed out that the truck speed limit proposal has been on the agenda for months and was not a reaction to the accident.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, would bring down the speed limit for trucks over 24,000 lbs. to 65 mph on rural Interstates, to 60 mph on rural expressways and to 55 on urban interstate highways.
Goode's proposal would also increase fines for speeding.
Koller said lowering the speed limit for trucks would make the roads more dangerous, as faster moving cars attempt to pass the slower trucks.
"I'm not in favor of lowering truck speed-limits lower than cars because it would only cause confusion and congestion," said Koller.
The trucking industry agreed.
Things will only get worse if trucks are forced to go slower than cars, said George Burruss, lobbyist for the Missouri Motor Carriers Association, which represents trucking companies.
"We don't support the bill as written. If it were amended to include automobiles as well as trucks, however, we would support it."