Truck-only lanes have cons, OOIDA official says

| 7/23/2007

Lanes specifically reserved for trucks, while proposed by the U.S. DOT to separate tractor-trailers from four-wheeled traffic, might not be all they’re cracked up to be, an OOIDA representative said this week.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is promoting numerous congestion-relief programs, including Federal Highways Administration grants for states to add capacity to existing roads through high-occupancy lanes or truck-only lanes.

But Rod Nofziger, director of government affairs with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, warned that truck-only lanes may cause new problems in addition to ones they appear to solve.

“We are none too keen upon them for a couple of different reasons,” Nofziger told Land Line. “Quite often, you’re going to continue the process of truckers shouldering more than their share of the burden for constructing and maintaining not only those roads, but other roadways that run adjacent to them.”

Another problem, Nofziger said, is that passenger vehicles would travel in the free lanes while trucks would be forced into the truck-only lanes, many of which are proposed to be tolled lanes.

“If trucks have a choice (between regular and truck-only lanes), we would be much more open to these proposals,” Nofziger said.

A recent example of a state considering truck-only lanes is Georgia, where transportation officials hope to add capacity to Interstates 285 and 75 in and around Atlanta.

“We know that freight movement is rapidly increasing,” Georgia DOT spokeswoman Carrie Hamblin told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio. “We know we’ve got a plan now to meet that kind of demand.”

The state hasn’t figured out where to get the funding yet, Hamblin said, but added that public-private partnerships might be one avenue to consider.

The FHWA has several grant programs available for congestion relief, including the proposed Corridors of the Future Program, announced in September 2006 in the Federal Register.

Brass from the DOT are scheduled to choose up to five proposed corridors or multi-state projects this summer from a pool of 14 proposals.

An example of a proposed future corridor is the addition of a dedicated truck lane or lanes on Interstate 70 through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, submitted to FHWA by the state departments of transportation from those states.

U.S. DOT Secretary Mary Peters, like the previous secretary, Norman Mineta, has invited the private sector into the mix to fund and construct lane capacity in exchange for keeping toll revenue for a specified period. The DOT also provided states with model legislation to help launch public-private partnerships.

That is another red flag for OOIDA’s member truckers, in addition to other growing concerns with truck-only lanes, Nofziger said.

The American Trucking Association of large motor carriers has come out in favor of truck-only lanes. Nofziger said he knows why.

“The proponents of bigger, heavier, longer trailers see truck-only lanes as a way of getting more opportunities for hauling more freight in that sort of manner,” Nofziger said. “That is the trade-off that larger companies are looking for. Of course, we are opposed to the expansion of the use of doubles and triples.”

Unless truck lanes offer options for trucks to pass each other, there is another problem with truck-only corridors, Nofziger adds.

“If your truck has an issue, all of a sudden you’re going to see all the other trucks backed up,” he said.

Merging in and out of the truck-only lanes when they begin and end would also pose problems, he said.

Congestion relief continues to be a concern for states with more trucks, freight and passenger vehicles taking to the highways each day.

“We want to provide roadways where our truckers can get through our state conveniently, reliably, and move their freight and goods where they need to be,” Hamblin said. “At the same time, we also need to provide mobility for cars and commuters trying to get to work and back home each evening.”

Georgia transportation officials have not yet figured out funding, but in June, the U.S. DOT named Atlanta as one of nine cities to receive $1 million each in grants designed to reduce congestion. State officials will use the grant to speed up the reconstruction of the Interstate 85 interchange in Troup County.

Other FHWA programs for congestion relief, as authorized in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy of Users – or SAFETEA-LU – include tolling and congestion pricing; public-private partnerships; real-time traveler information; traffic incident management; work-zone mobility and traffic signal timing. Click here for more information on those programs.

– By David Tanner, staff writer

Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this story.