Louisiana truck lane ban hits roadblock

| 4/12/2006

An effort in the Louisiana House to ban large trucks from driving in the far left-hand lane on certain roadways in the state is likely dead.

The House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted 6-5 Monday, April 10, to defer action on a bill that would limit trucks with three or more axles to the right lanes of limited-access highways and interstates with three or more lanes in each direction.

Supporters said the lane ban would allow traffic to move more freely.

“We think it will improve the safety and traffic operations. And it will facilitate the flow of goods, which is important to truck traffic,” Rep. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, told lawmakers before the vote.

“We are trying to minimize congestion and any time you improve public safety you minimize traffic accidents, which minimizes your major delays. As well, this will improve the maneuverability issue by reducing the number of lane changes that truck traffic will have to do.”

Opponents said research doesn’t show that lane restrictions improve highway safety.

LMTA Executive Director Cathy Gautreaux said lane restrictions create traffic problems.

“Whenever you alter the free flow of traffic and increase vehicle interaction, that’s where the propensity of accidents increases,” Gautreaux told lawmakers.

Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, 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-hand 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.

In addition to the traffic safety issues the proposed lane ban would create, Gautreaux pointed out that the ban doesn’t do much for expressing the state’s appreciation to the trucking industry for its role in rebuilding the region after Hurricane Katrina.

“After Katrina rail, barge, air, everything was down, but trucks rolled,” she said.

The bill – HB142 – could still be brought back for consideration. It must be rescheduled for a committee hearing once the panel has heard all other House bills requested for consideration. If that requirement is met, two-thirds of the committee members still would need to sign off on its reconsideration.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor