Maryland bills cover lane use, APUs

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/20/2014

Maryland lawmakers are reviewing bills of interest that include efforts to limit left-lane use, boost the incentive for truckers to avoid idling, and make way for emergency personnel alongside roads.

Delegate Cathy Vitale, R-Severna Park, introduced a bill that covers travelers who hang out in the far left lane of multilane highways around the state.

The House Environmental Matters Committee could soon consider a bill that is intended to combat aggressive driving on expressways and controlled access highways. HB2 would prohibit drivers of all vehicles from lingering in the left lane.

Supporters, including OOIDA and the National Motorists Association, say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

Current Maryland law requires any vehicle driving at least 10 mph below the posted speed to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule are made for preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

Vitale’s bill would specify that simply driving in the far left lane would only be permitted for passing other vehicles.

The bill is scheduled for a committee hearing on Jan. 28.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony last week on a bill that would increase the incentive to get truck drivers to stop idling.

States were given the ability in 2005 to allow heavy-duty trucks to exceed the 80,000-pound maximum weight limit to encourage the use of idling-reduction equipment.

In recent years many states have adopted rules to increase the weight limits for trucks equipped with auxiliary power units up to an additional 400 pounds.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 30 states have laws that authorize the weight allowance for commercial vehicles. There are 15 states where the weight allowance is granted by enforcement policy rather than by state law.

States yet to permit the 400-pound exemption are California, Hawaii, Kentucky, North Carolina and Rhode Island. The weight allowance doesn’t affect state highway funding eligibility.

The 2012 federal transportation law included a provision to allow states to increase their APU weight exemption another 150 pounds to 550 pounds. The change was sought to accommodate newer technologies available for truckers that consume less fuel, but weigh more.

Through the end of 2013, seven states have acted to authorize APU exemptions up to 550 pounds. The states are Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Maryland bill – SB72 – would also increase the state’s 400-pound exemption to 550 pounds.

One more bill in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee covers buffer zones for emergency personnel and others along roadsides.

Since October 2010, Maryland law has required vehicles approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights to move into a lane away from the vehicle. If unable to change lanes, drivers are required to reduce speed.

The fine for failure to make way for emergency personnel is $110 and one point against the operator’s license. If an accident occurs, violators face a $150 fine and three penalty points.

SB3 would add tow trucks and service vehicles to the protected list.

Copyright © OOIDA