Missouri approves truck lane restrictions, other provisions of note

| 7/14/2008

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has signed into law a lengthy bill that includes several provisions of interest to truck drivers.

The new law, previously SB930, prohibits large trucks from traveling in the far left lane on certain roads through Kansas City and St. Louis.

Trucks with a registered gross weight in excess of 48,000 pounds will be prohibited from driving in the far left lane of “urbanized” highways that have at least three lanes of traffic in each direction. The rule change will take effect once signage is posted.

State law enacted a year ago already prohibits trucks heavier than 24,000 pounds from driving in the left-most lane of Interstate 70 within three miles of the intersection with state Route 370 in St. Charles County.

Advocates for keeping trucks out of the far left lane say it makes roadways safer for all travelers. A Missouri-based truckers group says that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. An official with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says the group opposes lane restrictions for any class of vehicle.

“Adopting lane restrictions is an ill-advised step to take,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Such restrictions invariably cause more problems than they fix.

“When you start restricting vehicles to certain lanes you end up with more vehicles tailgating, and making unsafe passing maneuvers in all lanes. This isn’t good for congestion or highway safety.

“Lane restrictions simply discourage smart, safe driving practices.”

Spencer said it’s regrettable that lawmakers saw fit to make the change.

“This is an example where politics trumped safety and common sense,” he said.

In addition, Spencer pointed out that Missouri law already has restrictions to keep all traffic to the right except to pass.

Other provisions of note attached to the bill include an incentive to reduce idling, allow local enforcement of truck rules and prohibit certain indemnification agreements.

The maximum gross vehicle weight limit and axle weight limit for large trucks equipped with idle reduction technology will be increased. Affected trucks are authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.

The procedure for conducting roadside inspections for large trucks also will be revised. A program will be set up to certify local law enforcement officers to enforce commercial motor vehicle laws.

Certified law enforcement officers could conduct random roadside examinations or inspections to determine compliance with the CMV weight and size limit laws. Officers who are not certified still could pull over large trucks with a “visible external safety defect.”

Indemnity agreements also are prohibited in motor carrier transportation contracts that claim “to indemnify a party against loss from negligence or intentional acts void and unenforceable.”

A separate provision in the bill is intended to keep repeat drunken drivers from driving drunk. In order to get back behind the wheel, ignition interlock devices soon will be required to be installed on repeat offenders’ vehicles.

Interlocks are hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once such a device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece, which measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath. If the driver blows clean, the car will then start; if not, it won’t budge.

In addition, the devices often require drivers to re-blow in the machine after a designated period of time, to ensure that they have not convinced someone else to blow into the mouthpiece for them or that they haven’t been drinking since getting behind the wheel.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor