Louisiana bill would split speeds, limit lane use for trucks

| 5/20/2008

If a Louisiana state lawmaker gets his way, uniform speed limits on highways in the state would be a thing of the past. Also, big rigs would be limited to the right lane on interstates.

Rep. Stephen Carter, R-Baton Rouge, has introduced a bill that would lower the speed limit for “eighteen-wheeler” trucks by 10 mph. All other vehicles could continue to travel at the current posted limits.

Trucks would be restricted to 60 mph on interstates and other limited-access highways – down from 70 mph – and 55 mph – down from 65 mph – on certain other roadways.

Advocates for slowing trucks down say it would make roadways safer. Opponents contend that requiring trucks to drive at speeds 10 mph slower than other vehicles does not promote safety on highways. They say that having vehicles travel at the same speed minimizes the need for passing, lane changes, tailgating, and other maneuvers – which create opportunities for drivers to make mistakes.

Another provision in the bill would ban large trucks from driving in the left lanes on interstates. Tractor-trailers with at least 18 wheels would be limited to the right lane.

A similar measure awaiting consideration on the Senate floor – SB341 – would limit tractor-trailers to the right lane on multilane highways.

Exceptions would be made for overtaking and passing other vehicles.

Supporters contend the lane restriction is about safety. They cite a similar rule in place on Interstate 10 over the Atchafalaya Basin. Critics say research doesn’t show that lane restrictions improve highway safety. Instead, they create traffic problems.

Others point out that Louisiana law already allows law enforcement officers to ticket drivers who hold up traffic by lingering in the left lane. It is intended to stop motorists from using the left lanes of multilane highways if they are not passing other vehicles.

The rule applies specifically to roads outside of municipalities where the posted speed is at least 55 mph.

Carter’s bill – HB1282 – is in the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor