Pennsylvania bills would split speeds, restrict lane use, boost truck fines

| 9/12/2007

As state lawmakers put on a final push in Pennsylvania to approve bills before the regular session ends in less than three months, a pair of bills of interest to truck drivers could draw consideration.

A bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would require truck drivers to travel 5 mph slower than they do now and stay to the right on certain highways in the state.

Sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, the bill – SB369 – would mandate that vehicles with a registered gross weight in excess of 26,000 pounds be slowed to 60 mph on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, rural interstates and other limited-access routes. All other vehicles would be allowed to continue to travel at the current 65 mph speed limit.

Supporters say the change is needed for safer travel. Opponents say requiring trucks to drive at speeds slower than other vehicles does not promote safety on the highways.

“It does exactly the opposite by requiring that vehicles are constantly in conflict with each other. Lane changes and passing is constantly required to avoid crashes,” Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told Land Line.

Another point of contention in the bill is a provision that would restrict large trucks to the far right-hand lane of highways. State law already prohibits trucks from traveling in the far left-hand lane of highways with three or more lanes traveling in the same direction.

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

Spencer said that thinking is flawed.

“Adopting lane restrictions would be an ill-advised step to take,” he said. “Such restrictions invariably cause more problems than they fix.

“Trucks and other vehicles need to be able to move over a lane when necessary. It’s common courtesy, but this is also about highway safety.

“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.”

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

Another bill offered by Greenleaf targets large trucks that follow too closely behind other vehicles and drive in excess of the speed limit. It would require that trucks with a gross weight in excess of 26,000 pounds found to be following too closely to face $100 fines.

The bill – SB368 – also would double the fine for trucks exceeding speed limits.

Existing state law requires anyone found to be driving more than 65 mph to face fines of $42.50. Any other speed limit violations result in $35 fines.

The bill would increase the fines for truckers to $85 and $70, respectively.

All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for late November.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania for 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor