Officials in 11 states take on trucks and others in left lanes

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/10/2017

State legislatures from coast to coast are discussing possible rule changes to left-lane use by truck drivers and motorists.

One South Carolina bill would limit circumstances when commercial vehicles could use the far left-hand lane.

State law already requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Exceptions to the lane rule are made for situations that include preparing to turn or to overtake and pass another vehicle.

Rep. Bill Crosby, R-Charleston, is the sponsor of a bill to require large trucks to move to the right when another vehicle is behind them. However, trucks could use the left lane while overtaking and passing other vehicles.

Other exceptions would include situations when traffic conditions, weather and congestion make it impractical to stay right.

The state DOT would be responsible for posting signage to alert truck drivers about the lane restriction.

Concern about left lane use is also spurring activity in the Hawaii Legislature. One bill would prohibit vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds from using the far left lane on highways with three or more lanes. Certain exceptions would apply.

Alabama Rep. Tommy Hanes, R-Scottsboro, has a bill that also targets professional drivers in the far left-hand lane.

Currently, vehicles traveling below the posted speed limit on Alabama highways are required to stay to the right.

Hanes’ bill would prohibit vehicles with three or more axles from driving in the left lane on the state’s interstates and U.S. highways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction. The ban would also apply along roadways with at least three lanes of traffic in the same direction.

Certain exceptions would apply.

OOIDA says that truckers are first-hand observers of the negative consequences of misguided traffic laws, and while perhaps not intended, efforts to restrict trucks from certain lanes pose serious challenges for truckers and jeopardize the safety of the traveling public.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said that truckers contribute a significant amount of money to federal, state and local transportation accounts and they have every right to use any available lane.

He added that existing keep-right laws are an appropriate policy to ensure safety and maximize capacity.

A bill on the move in Mississippi focuses on lane use for all highway users. Police would be allowed to ticket drivers lingering in the far left lanes of interstates and highways with at least two lanes of traffic in one direction.

Travelers on affected roadways would be required 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.

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.

In Virginia, state law already requires any vehicle moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to stay to the right. Authorities are also able to restrict trucks from the left lane on interstates with three or more lanes in one direction.

One bill would revise the lane-use rule to limit left-lane use for passing another vehicle or in preparation for a left turn.

A related bill halfway through the statehouse covers motorists and others who disobey the existing left lane rule. The fine amount for driving too slowly in the left lane would increase from $100 to $250.

An Oregon bill would make the left lane off limits for everything except passing.

Truckers already are prohibited from using the far-left lane.

Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, introduced a bill to set left lane restrictions for all vehicles on state highways and interstates with speeds of at least 55 mph.

Burdick has said if the left lane is used exclusively for passing, the roads will be safer and all drivers will be less frustrated.

Similar efforts are underway in Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

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