Louisiana bill calling for split speeds, limiting lane use for trucks dies

| 7/11/2008

The Louisiana Legislature recently wrapped up its work for the year without approving a bill that sought to make uniform speeds on highways in the state a thing of the past. Big rigs also would have been limited to the right lane on interstates.

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

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

The bill – HB1282 – never advanced out of a House committee.

Advocates for slowing trucks down said it would make roadways safer. Opponents said requiring trucks to drive at speeds 10 mph slower than other vehicles does not promote safety on highways. Vehicles traveling at the same speed minimize the need for passing, lane changes, tailgating, and other maneuvers that create opportunities for drivers to make mistakes, they said.

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

A similar measure that died in the House – SB341 – would have limited tractor-trailers to the two right-most lanes on highways with three or more lanes. The Senate previously approved it. Exceptions would have been made for overtaking and passing other vehicles.

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

Others pointed 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.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor