Arizona truck lane restriction bill is sidetracked

| 4/8/2010

An effort in the Arizona Senate to keep large trucks to the right on certain roadways is about to get an extreme makeover. OOIDA welcomes the changes to the bill.

Concern about what a lane restriction might mean for highway safety has spurred Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, to commit to turning his bill into a study effort. With that assurance, the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee voted unanimously Wednesday, April 7, to advance the bill.

As introduced, HB2300 called for limiting lane use for trucks weighing at least 26,000 pounds or trucks pulling trailers weighing 6,000 pounds or more. Roadways affected would be those with three or more lanes in each direction.

Trucks would be required to stay in the farthest right-hand lane or in the lane immediately to the left of that lane unless otherwise posted. But after getting negative feedback, Farley opted to turn the legislation into a study bill focused on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.

The effort to limit trucks to certain lanes riled the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and also drew the concern of the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Arizona Trucking Association. OOIDA is opposed to lane restrictions for any class of vehicle.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Member Tom Gillies of Apache Junction, AZ, took time out of his schedule to speak at the Wednesday hearing. After receiving an OOIDA Call to Action about the bill Gillies made the 28-mile drive to the Capitol to offer his “two cents” on the effort.

“If I’m passing through Tucson, I don’t want to be held up with people getting on and off the freeway. It would be safer for me to stay to the left because I’m a through-truck,” Gillies told the committee.

He also pointed out that all traffic is better off without lane restrictions. “If there’s a truck stuck at the entrance ramp, that further exacerbates a traffic snarl,” Gillies said.
Arizona law already limits slow traffic to the right. Gillies said the state would be better served to simply post signs about the rule.

Gillies, a 25-year veteran truck driver, also made sure that lawmakers know that states like Arizona have a knack for making truckers feel unappreciated.

“I pay all this money to be able to use these roads, and now you’re telling me I can’t use the roads I’m paying for?” he questioned lawmakers. “I pay $550 a year to the IRS for federal highway use tax; then I pay another $1,500 a year in fuel tax. Essentially, trucks pay for the roads.”

Despite the concessions made this week to appease truckers and ADOT, the issue is likely not over. Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Vail, said he is hopeful that the I-10 study is only the first step toward implementing lane restrictions throughout the state.

“Let’s get the first down. Let’s move the chains. Then let’s go for the bomb next session,” Antenori told committee members.

Gillies will be ready if lawmakers decide to revisit this issue in the future.

“One driver can make a world of difference in their state,” he said. “Look at the drivers in Ohio who finally got them to pass that speed limit law. Then there’s Illinois. It didn’t just happen by osmosis.”

The bill now moves to the Senate floor. If senators pass the bill, it would head back to the House for approval of changes.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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