In recent months officials in Arkansas have been debating over the implementation of a bill passed. This bill would allow speed limits on freeways in the state to be raised to 75 miles per hour. The bill was introduced on March 16th, 2017 by the Arkansas House and was passed on April 7th, 2017. This bill would allow speed limits to go up to 75 mph in rural interstate freeways and would set rural non-divided highway speed limits to 65 mph. Despite the passage of the bill by the Arkansas House, state highway officials have halted the implementation of the new law.
Arkansas Speed Limit Increases and its implications on Arkansas Transportation
The Arkansas Department of Transportation spokesman, Danny Straessle cited that engineers are studying the designs of roads as well as traffic patterns before an approval from the Department of Transportation is issued. The bill was allowed to pass, but not signed off on by Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson. A representative from Governor Hutchinson’s office stated that the Governor did not see a need for a higher speed limit in the state.
A key concern for Arkansas transportation officials is that an increase in the speed limit on freeways could result in more casualties occurring on the road as people will be driving faster. A statistic from a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that there is an 8% increase in traffic deaths for every 5 mph speed limit increase on freeways and interstate highways. Arkansas DOT spokesman, Danny Straessle had some words to say on the issue, “We know folks exceed the speed limit, so what are people really going to drive?” Straessle asked. “If you get over 85 miles per hour on some of these highways, that’s really not a good idea” (Fox News). The infrastructure and integrity of the road is another concern for officials and tax payers. The faster drivers are going, the more wear and tear will be dealt to the highways. This would surely lead to a need for more frequent repairs and maintenance, meaning more tax payer money being devoted to maintenance of the roads and less room for state resources to be devoted elsewhere. Mr. Straessle also had to say that speed limits on Interstate 49 may be lowered to accommodate the rapidly developing northwestern region of Arkansas. He went on to say that the 75 mph speed limit imposed by the bill is unlikely to be applied to Interstate 40 because of the frequency of tractor-trailers traversing the Interstate (Fox News). Interstate 40 is critical because it is between two flatbed hauling hot spots, Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Straessle issued a reminder that this speed limit increased means the DOT is merely allowed to increase speed limits, it is not mandated to and as such, speed limit increases will remain at the discretion of the Department of Transportation.
A speed limit increase in a state with such a heavy agriculture and livestock centric economy has large implications for the flatbed trucking industry. Arkansas is among the top two producers of the United State’s broilers (young chickens). Broilers make up around 40% of Arkansas livestock production. Arkansas’ most important crop on the other hand is rice. The state is the leading producer of rice in the US, accounting for nearly 50% of the nation’s supply. With a state this integral to the distribution of livestock and crops, it is clear that the state has a high demand for flatbed shipping. The implications of an increase in speed limit is important for the safety of our flatbed carriers. An increase in the speed limit on freeways could impose additional risk for drivers as people could become more careless as they speed and therefore cause more accidents. With tractor-trailer drivers hauling precious cargo being especially susceptible to crashes. An increase in speed limit in a frequently traveled state with as much freight as Arkansas has is critical because it can result in a change in laws and regulations for drivers, especially flatbed drivers. If the rate of deaths and accidents do increase as a result of the higher speed limits then it could also potentially increase flatbed hauling quotes because drivers will be less likely to want to drive through dangerous roads and therefore they will demand higher premiums for their services.
The potential bump has large implications both for the general population and especially for the Arkansas trucking industry. It is crucial that engineers inspect the implications and conduct road surveys to ensure the safety of the general public and Arkansas flatbed carriers. Mr. C has been adamant about his position on the speed limit, and the Governor has voiced his opinion on the matter as well, now it is only a matter of time to see whether the bill’s new policy is implemented in highways and interstates across Arkansas.
By, David Bansleben