JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers hurled criticism at the Highway Patrol this week during committee hearings for lowering speed limits for trucks.
The remarks came in lieu of a bill, sponsored by Rep. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, calling for tractor-trailers heavier than two tons to be restricted to the right hand lane, and for their speed limit to be reduced to 65 mph.
Going before the House Transportation Committee, the bill echoed Sen. Ken Jacob's, D-Columbia, nearly identical proposal heard by the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
At that hearing, the committee chairman, Sen. Danny Staples-Eminence, brought up concerns that the Highway Patrol was not doing its job enforcing existing speed limit laws.
"It seems to me that we can pass all the laws in the world, but if those laws are not enforced then there is no purpose," Staples said.
On the House side, Rep. Tim Green, D-St. Louis County, expressed similar sentiments, saying, "It doesn't matter if we lower the limit if they're not out there doing their job."
Lt. Chris Ricks of the Patrol said the situation is more complicated than lawmakers portray it. Truckers, he pointed out, have a very effective communication system which allows them to alert each other to the presence of officers on the highway.
"As soon as one sees an officer then all the other truckers within 5 miles will know where that trooper is," Ricks said.
People are apt to get more upset about speeding trucks than cars which tends to make the problem seem larger than it actually is, Ricks also said.
"I've pulled people over in cars that were going 80 miles-per-hour and they'll complain to me about a truck going the same speed," said Ricks.
Rep. Don Koller came out in defense of the Highway Patrol, saying they might not have adequate staffing to handle the problem.
"I think they're very accountable. We need to look at getting them more officers and higher pay," Koller said.
Multiple bills for lowering the speed limits for trucks as well as for all traffic have been proposed this session.