Lanes for trucks only? Good idea but…

By Tyson Fisher, staff writer

In this issue we report on the buzz about the truck-only lanes going full steam ahead in Georgia, funded by means other than tolls. People in the Peach State say nothing like it has ever been proposed in the U.S. before.

There’s a reason for that. The idea of truck-only lanes at first mention gets the nod of approval from motorists and truckers alike. Why then, is there a deeper concern?

Our highway system benefits everybody, including those who may never use it. An example of what some see as a good idea is high-occupancy vehicle lanes. But in some instances, overall traffic flows better without them.

We do have highways in the U.S. that have “truck lanes.” But they aren’t actual truck-only lanes. Like I-5 in California, cars get over there all the time. Most commonly, there are “trucks right lane only” restrictions. I reached out to the U.S. Department of Transportation to find any other examples of truck-only lanes that currently exist on our nation’s highways. They weren’t all that helpful and actually could not find an example.

Lanes created for trucks only is not a new concept, nor is the funding challenge.

In a 2005 article in its publication Public Roads, the Federal Highway Administration addressed the issue of financing truck-only lanes. The assessment was written by David J. Forkenbrock, director of the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center, and Jim March, leader of the Industry and Economic Analysis Team in FHWA’s Office of Policy. Their conclusion: tolls.

“Adding truck-only lanes to existing highways would be expensive enough that state and local DOTs are unlikely to find sufficient resources to fund them using traditional sources, such as a state’s road-use tax fund,” Forkenbrock and March wrote. “Therefore, tolls would likely be assessed on users of the improved facility.”

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer has long been leery of the cost burden of truck-only lanes - costs that would inevitably be foisted on to trucks.

“Truck-only lanes would really put a target on trucks,” says Spencer, “and that would be most attractive to those looking for a cash cow.”

For the most part, truck-only lanes are simply not a cost-justifiable option.

It seems like a good idea on the surface, but you can’t ignore that buried underneath is a colossal cost burden. LL