was described by an Illinois legislator’s office as a “voluntary effort” to
encourage trucks to stay in the right lane on U.S. 41 in northeastern Illinois
is being treated as a regulation, with truckers who do not drive to the right
facing $75 fines.
An official with the office of state
Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, told Land Line in early March that
the senator was working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to place
signs along U.S. 41 between Chicago and the Wisconsin border asking trucks to
stay in the right lane.
Claffey, spokesman for IDOT, said the signs were posted along U.S. 41 during
the first week in April. The signs tell trucks – but no other vehicles – to
remain in the right lane.
Garrett had earlier indicated she
intended to introduce a bill that would compel trucks to stay in the right lane
on all similar roads in the state. However, an aide to the senator said later
she had opted for the voluntary effort.
Lt. Lincoln Hampton, a spokesman for the Illinois State Police, said that for
trucks on U.S. 41, the signs represent a regulation, not a request.
law, new interpretation
said the signs are based on an existing Illinois law that says all slower
traffic on four-lane and larger highways is supposed to stay to the right. He
said the law also specifically requires trucks only to stay in the right lane
in construction zones.
the case of U.S. 41, truckers found in violation would receive a ticket.
is required that slower traffic stay to the right, and truck traffic use the
two right lanes, or use the right lane when not passing,” he said. “That’s why
is basically … the law is to stay to the right.”
in this case, trucks are being singled out on the signs, he said, because “the
truck traffic is usually slower traffic anyway.” Some trucks on U.S. 41 stay in
the left lane while traveling at lower speeds and when not passing, he said,
creating traffic backups. “That’s the main reason.”
Hampton said that even though the signs refer only to trucks, the State Police
would apply the left lane restriction equally to all slow vehicles that are not
staying in the right lane.
‘Common sense’ approach
State Police spokesman told The Chicago
Tribune in March that authorities would use “common sense” when deciding whether to issue a ticket to a trucker found in the left lane. Hampton said that it was typical to allow
officers such discretion in deciding whether to issue tickets.
an officer has to make a determination of how long the vehicle has been in the
left-hand lane, if he is maybe passing or that kind of thing,” he said. “It’s
just like any other regulation as far as traffic laws; the officer has
discretion as to issuing the citation.”
the signs will not give truckers any guidance on when or for how long they can
be in the left lane.
laws remain the same,” he said. “The law is not saying that you cannot use the
left lane; it’s saying they’re asking you to stay in the right lane. Basically
… you can use the left lane, obviously to pass or in emergency traffic. What we
want you to do is stay in the right lane if you’re not passing.”
Trucks quickly became a target of state
efforts along U.S. 41 north of Chicago after the first of the year, when
Illinois more than doubled tolls on the nearby Tri-State Tollway, which carries
Interstate 94 to the Wisconsin border. U.S. 41 parallels the interstate through
suburban Lake County.
The higher tolls quickly had a visible
effect. In February, Chicago-area media outlets reported that the tollway
system had seen a 7.7 percent decline in the number of trucks since it
implemented the toll hike. But The Chicago Sun-Times reported that on
two of the tollway’s roads, that drop exceeded 10 percent.
Garrett said the truck diversions raised
the ire of many local residents. But the
most visible response came from the Illinois State Police, which increased their
patrols along U.S. 41. More weigh stations were added in January.
In addition, State Police officers
assigned to commercial enforcement said Feb. 24 that they would conduct “special inspection details” and use portable scales on the road. Truckers said
in March that the stepped up enforcement had already begun.
State Police officials said in a
statement that they were acting under the direction of Illinois Gov. Rod
Blagojevich. The governor released a statement saying there have been
complaints from residents about commercial trucks.
“As major changes to the tollway get
under way, we’ve heard from local residents who are concerned about the
short-term impact on local traffic flow – especially from commercial trucks,” Blagojevich said in a news release.
OOIDA member Brian Calhoun, Grayslake,
IL, said he had seen the increased enforcement on U.S. 41 firsthand.As he and his
wife were traveling the highway in their car on a recent Saturday night, he saw
two trucks at a weigh station undergoing full inspections.
“Two state troopers, they had two trucks
pulled into the scale, and they had the doors open, going through the truck and
everything,” he said. “It had to have been like 6:30 at night … and the scales
are never open on 41 on weekends.”
Calhoun has also recently seen scales
open at odd hours, like 4:30 a.m., doing full DOT inspections.
“They’ve never done that before,” Calhoun
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor