Lane use for truck drivers and other Mississippi highway users is a leading topic of conversation at the statehouse.
State law now requires vehicles driving slower than the normal speed of traffic to drive in the right-hand lane of multilane highways. Vehicles are allowed to merge left to overtake and pass slower moving traffic.
Two House bills go further to single out professional drivers for their use of the far left-hand lane.
Rep. Noah Sanford, R-Collins, is the sponsor of a bill to require large trucks to operate in the two most right-hand lanes on roadways with at least two lanes of travel in one direction.
On two-lane highways trucks would be limited to travel in the right lane. Exceptions would be made for turning left or passing another vehicle.
Truckers driving on highways with at least three lanes would be required to operate in the two furthest right-hand lanes. Exceptions would be made for trucks preparing to turn left or if they are required by law to operate in another lane.
A separate bill singles out truck traffic traveling in the Jackson area.
Sponsored by Rep. Randall Patterson, R-Biloxi, the bill states that commercial vehicles must operate in the right-hand lane on a seven-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 49 in Rankin County. Specifically, trucks would face lane restrictions from Eagle Post Road in Florence to Kroger Drive in Richland.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to restricting trucks from any lanes of traffic. The Association says that truckers are first-hand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said by restricting the movement of trucks to the center and right lanes, trucks will inevitably block entrance and exit ramps and impede motorists from safely entering and exiting the roadway.
“The right lane is used for merging traffic and it is certainly not feasible to keep all trucks in the center lane,” he said.
Matousek has communicated to bill sponsors that their legislation is redundant to the state’s existing “keep right” law. He adds that lane restrictions create the “barrier effect,” which results in decreased safety by creating dangerous merging and lane-changing conditions, more aggressive driving, and ultimately an increase in the number of accidents.
In addition, he says that truck drivers contribute a significant amount of money to federal, state and local transportation accounts and they have every right to use any available lane.
“If the left-hand lane is open, commercial trucks should be free to use it and be held to the same standard as every other motorist.”
HB397 and HB323 are in the House Transportation Committee.
Four separate efforts in the House Transportation Committee cover travelers who poke around in the far left lane of certain multilane highways.
Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, and Rep. Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula, are sponsors of bills to allow police to ticket drivers lingering in the far left lanes of interstates and highways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction.
HB391 and HB511 would require any driver on affected roadways to stay to the right except when overtaking or passing another vehicle. Also, drivers would be exempt if they are in the left lane to turn or exit.
Sponsored by Rep. Jeramey Anderson, D-Moss Point, HB1016 would include an exception for inclement weather conditions that make travel in other lanes impractical. HB24 from Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, would make an exception for emergency situations.
A separate provision in HB1016 covers instances when a vehicle is driving at a slow rate of speed, and when three or more vehicles are blocked and cannot pass on the left. Affected drivers on roads with two lanes or a three-lane road with a center lane would be required to pull off to the right of the right lane “at the earliest reasonable opportunity” to allow the blocked vehicles to pass.
One more bill would authorize commercial vehicles to bypass inspection stations under certain circumstances.
Mississippi law authorizes fines of up to $1,000 and the possibility of jail time for failure to stop at an inspection station.
HB23 would allow operators to keep driving past a facility if they are “unable to completely exit a highway, road or street due to a vehicle obstruction when reaching the exit lane for the inspection station.”
Affected drivers would be required to stop at the next inspection station along his or her route.
The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.
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