Louisiana bill singles out trucks in left lanes

| 5/20/2011

A bill on the move in the Louisiana Senate would prohibit trucks from using the far left lane on many roadways.

The Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted 4-3 on Thursday, May 19, to advance a bill that would mandate tractor-trailers stay to the right on multi-lane highways. The bill – SB139 – now moves to the Senate floor.

Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, is the bill sponsor. During the hearing he cited a similar rule in place on Interstate 10 over the Atchafalaya Basin. He said the stretch of road has seen wrecks decrease significantly.

Cathy Gautreaux, executive director for the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, said the stretch of highway is a unique situation and should not be viewed as proof the lane restriction would work statewide.

She referred to a 2009 study by the Louisiana Transportation Research Center that showed lane restrictions are only beneficial in certain instances and could be harmful in others.

 “A blanket application to all highways is not appropriate,” Gautreaux read from the report.

Louisiana law already prohibits cars and trucks from using the left lane if they are moving at less than the normal speed of traffic. Intent on stopping “rolling roadblocks,” the law also makes the left lane off limits for all vehicles except for passing. Exceptions to the lane rule are made for preparing to turn at an intersection or when the right lane is congested.

The bill would limit tractor-trailers to the right lanes on highways with three or more lanes in each direction. On two-lane stretches of roadways, trucks would be restricted to the far right lane.

Violators would face $500 fines. An exception would be made for “a reasonable distance” when making a left turn or for “a special road hazard.”

Before passage, the committee added a provision to the bill that would allow trucks to use the left lane of multi-lane highways near large cities.

The effort to single out truck traffic on Louisiana highways has drawn the ire of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The Association is opposed to lane restrictions for any class of vehicle.

“Adopting lane restrictions would be an ill-advised step to take,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Such restrictions invariably cause more problems than they fix.”

Spencer pointed out that when vehicles are restricted to certain lanes there is more tailgating, and unsafe passing maneuvers in all lanes.

“Lane restrictions simply discourage smart, safe driving practices,” he said.

Marionneaux took a defiant stance against input from the trucking industry that challenges his view.

Referring to a 2008 study titled “Trucker Perceptions and Opinions of Lane Restriction and Differential Speed Limit Policies,” Marionneaux said he doesn’t care what truckers think.

“Quite frankly I’m not interested in the opinion of the person driving (the truck),” he told lawmakers.

OOIDA encourages Louisiana truckers to contact their state Senators to voice concerns about the bill. The Association has issued a Call to Action.

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

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.