UPDATE: Officials in 15 states look to limit trucks, others in left lanes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, March 30, 2017

State legislatures from coast to coast continue to work through possible rule changes to left lane use by truck drivers and motorists.

The Virginia General Assembly has advanced a bill to the governor’s desk that is intended to deter driving in the far left-hand lane.

Virginia law requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. The maximum fine is set at $250.

Speaking recently on the Senate floor, Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, told lawmakers the bill addresses problems with motorists who fail to follow the lane-use rule.

“If you have ever driven down the interstate and you wonder why that person never will get over from the left-hand lane, and you are honking your horn, and you are blinking your lights, and they continue to stay in that lane. Well right now if you receive a signal from a driver behind you with flashing lights you are supposed to move to the right, but as we all know that fails to happen,” Carrico said.

As approved by state lawmakers, HB2201 would impose fines of at least $250 for driving too slowly in the left lane. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, however, reduced the mandatory minimum to $100.

House lawmakers voted to approve the governor’s change. The Senate will decide on the change Wednesday, April 5.

Pennsylvania and West Virginia bills would increase fine amounts for failure to stay right on multi-lane highways.

Similarly in North Carolina, a Senate bill would attach a fine to violations of state law that requires slower traffic to keep right. Currently, state law does not spell out specific penalties.

SB303 would impose a $200 fine for anyone found to be driving at less than the speed limit, or when “impeding the steady flow of traffic.” Exceptions would include passing or overtaking another vehicle.

Michigan law already requires drivers on roadways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction to stay to the far right unless traffic flow is “substantially continuous.” Left lane use is also permitted to overtake and pass another vehicle.

On highways with at least three lanes of traffic, a motorist is free to use any available lane. However, large trucks are limited to the far right lanes.

A bill from Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, would require motorists on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction to move to the right if they know, or “reasonably should know,” a faster-moving vehicle is trying to pass.

Exceptions would be provided for situations that include preparing to turn left, when construction vehicles are working on the roadway, or when directed by law enforcement to exit a lane.

Supporters, including OOIDA and the National Motorists Association, say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

HB4062 comes on the heels of a new law increasing car speeds from 70 to 75 mph and truck speeds from 60 to 65 mph on about 600 miles of rural freeways in the state.

A similar effort to keep slow-moving vehicles to the right is on the verge of heading to the Montana governor’s desk.

Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula, said during a recent committee hearing on the bill it is intended to reduce road rage.

“Have you ever seen or heard from someone who’s got a little bit of road rage because they have been boxed in, or a vehicle won’t get over? I have,” Morigeau testified. “These are not just mere annoyances. These are dangerous events that are easily preventable with just a little bit of clarification in law. It will result in safer roads for all of us.”

Although existing state law addresses left lane use, Morigeau says that law enforcement in certain counties do not even ticket violators due to uncertainty about wording in the rule.

He said his bill would clarify what is and is not permissible when using the left lane.

Exceptions to the lane rule would be made for situations that include traveling on a roadway – not including interstates – within a city or town.

Senate lawmakers voted unanimously on Wednesday, March 29, to approve the bill. HB415 is headed to the House for approval of changes before moving to the governor’s desk.

In Oklahoma, the House voted 89-2 to advance a bill to the Senate to limit left lane use on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. Exceptions include passing another vehicle.

Sponsored by Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, HB2312 would limit left lane use on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction.

Related efforts are underway in Maryland, New York, Oregon and West Virginia.

Alabama law specifies that vehicles traveling below the normal speed of traffic must stay to the right. One House bill, HB218, would go a step further to include a blanket requirement on interstates for all vehicles, regardless of speed, to stay right except to pass.

Passing vehicles would be permitted 1.5 miles to complete the maneuver.

A separate House bill targets truck travel in the far left-hand lane.

HB18 would prohibit vehicles with three or more axles from driving in the left lane on the state’s interstates and U.S. highways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction. The ban would also apply along roadways with at least three lanes of traffic in the same direction.

Certain exceptions would apply.

OOIDA says that truckers are firsthand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws. And, while perhaps not intended, efforts to restrict trucks from certain lanes pose serious challenges for truckers and jeopardize the safety of the traveling public.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said that truckers contribute a significant amount of money to federal, state and local transportation accounts and they have every right to use any available lane.

A similar effort is underway in the South Carolina statehouse.

In Texas, a Senate bill calls for a study by the state Department of Transportation on the effects of restricting trucks from the far left lane. SB1550 specifies the study results must be submitted to the governor and Legislature by Dec. 1, 2018.

Matousek says existing keep-right laws in the states are an appropriate policy to ensure safety and maximize capacity.

Another effort to get trucks out of the far left lane is underway in Nevada.

State law now authorizes the Nevada Department of Transportation to post advisory signs on highways with at least three lanes in one direction that vehicles in excess of 26,000 pounds should stay to the right.

AB208 would go a step further to outright ban large trucks from traveling in the left lane. Certain exceptions would apply.

NDOT reports the change would affect 279 miles of roadway throughout the state.

Other efforts to limit left lane use would apply to any vehicle traveling slower than the average rate of traffic on multi-lane highways.

AB329 and AB334 would attach fines for vehicles impeding traffic in the far left lane. Violators would face fines ranging from $50 to $250. Certain exceptions would apply.

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