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Speeding Truckers Face Higher Fines

January 11, 1999
By: Carrie Beth Lasley
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Some Missouri legislators are proposing to tell big trucks to keep it slow in a big way.

Rep. Gracia Backer, D-Calloway County, and Rep. Don Koller, D-Summersville, announced a legislative proposal that would fine a truck driver $1,000 for traveling more than 75 MPH in a 70~-MPH zone.

"I have always worked very hard for the trucking industry," Backer said in a press conference. "In the past several years I have grown quite concerned and quite frightened at times when I'm on the highway."

The proposed legislation would not allow courts to lower fines. Current laws give judges a range in which they can assign a fine. Backer's legislation would make the $1,000 fine mandatory.

The proposed crack down on speeding truckers won the immediate endorsement of the state's main trucking industry association.

"It's just a few misguided drivers going too fast," said George Burruss, president of the Missouri Motor Carriers Association. Burruss showed up at the bill's announcement to voice his support. "We've done a survey of some drivers and they are in support of it."

The association represents trucking companies. But from the drivers, too, came words of support.

The president of Local 600 Teamsters in St. Louis, Dan McKay, said although he did not know of the proposed legislation, he did not anticipate opposition to the legislation.

"Most of the unionized trucks are governed down to 60-65 MPH," McKay said. "I know I don't want to see our drivers going 80 MPH."

Although the proposed legislation only addresses the speeds of commercial vehicles, Backer said she believes the higher standards will slow down other speeding vehicles as well.

"We're going to send a message saying we don't want trucks going over 75," Backer said. "We're watching you, too."

Missouri's Highway Patrol Superintendent, Col. Weldon Wilhoit, said 189 people were killed in Missouri last year as the result of a wreck with a commercial vehicle. Wilhoit said the Highway Patrol has clocked commercial vehicles going more than 90 miles an hour.

"If 15 to 20 cars pass you and one truck at 80,000 lbs, you're going to remember the truck, because for one thing, it's going to shake your car," he said. "At 80,000 lbs, if you go out of control, you're really going to do a lot of damage."

Rep. Koller said the proposed legislation has support from those in the industry.

"I have yet to talk to anyone who drives a truck who opposes this," he said. "We have a few hot dogs who need to slow down. If they don't, it'll help out our schools."