Truck lane restrictions closer to law in Missouri

| 5/11/2005

The Missouri House approved a transportation bill Tuesday, May 10, that includes a ban on large trucks from driving in the far left lane on most urban highways and interstates in the state. But House members threw out a provision in the bill to allow police to pull over drivers for not buckling up.

Later in the day, House lawmakers sent the bill back to the state Senate for approval of changes. Senators, however, quickly refused to sign off on it and called for a conference committee to work out differences.

If an agreement were reached before the session ends May 13, the bill would head to Gov. Matt Blunt for approval.

House and Senate lawmakers did agree to restrict commercial vehicles to the right lanes of highways and interstates with three or more lanes in each direction.

Trucks would be permitted to drive in the left lane in certain situations, such as a vehicle entering the roadway or for construction.

Sponsored by Sen. Jon Dolan, R-Lake Saint Louis, SB221 calls for violators to face a fine ranging from $200 to $300.

If signed into law, the Missouri Department of Transportation would be responsible for posting up to 430 signs informing drivers of the lane ban at a cost of about $150,000, according to the Missouri Legislature’s Web site.

The Grain Valley, MO-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes lane restrictions for any class of vehicle.

Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, pointed out that Missouri law already requires slower moving vehicles to move to the right for faster moving vehicles.

“This law applies to both cars and trucks but there is little to no signage throughout the state informing drivers,” he said.

“Drivers will tend to comply with policies and procedures they know are in effect. Without appropriate signage, how in the world could any lawmaker think drivers are going to instinctively know about state policy?”

The association, representing more than 6,000 Missouri-based truck drivers, has encouraged its members to voice their opinion to lawmakers about the lane ban.

The seat-belt provision sought by the Senate would permit police to pull over drivers for failure to buckle up. State law now allows motorists to be ticketed for failure to buckle up only after being stopped for another traffic violation.

Supporters said a primary seat-belt law is important for safety. Opponents argued drivers are smart enough to decide whether to wear a seat belt.

Dolan, a leading advocate for the tougher seat-belt rule, promised to keep fighting with only three days remaining in the session. He told the Columbia Missourian the provision “is going nowhere but the governor’s desk.”

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor