Mississippi and seven other states take action on left lane use

April 27, 2018

Keith Goble

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State lawmakers around the country are taking action to make changes to lane use rules.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the National Motorists Association say that blocking the left lane, whether intentional or not, results in reduced road safety and efficiency.

Mississippi is one state so far this year to enact a change to left lane rules.

The Magnolia State already requires vehicles driving slower than the normal speed of traffic to stay in the right lane of multilane highways. Vehicles are allowed to merge left to overtake and pass slower moving traffic.

Gov. Phil Bryant has signed into law a bill to permit police to ticket travelers lingering in the far left lanes of multilane highways.

Previously HB80, the new law expands the state’s rule to require travelers on multilane 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.

Violators would face fines between $5 and $50.

The new law takes effect July 1.

Also in effect the first of July in Idaho is a new law intended to keep vehicles out of the far-left lane for “an unreasonable amount of time.”

State law already prohibits impeding the “normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”

H471 covers impeding “the flow of other traffic traveling at a lawful rate of speed.”

Violators would face $90 citations.

Elsewhere, officials in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are pursuing changes to how trucks use the far left lane.

Louisiana
The House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted 7-5 to advance a bill to limit lane use for trucks during evening rush hour in Baton Rouge, La.

Louisiana law already requires all vehicles to stay in the right lane on highways except when passing. Fine amounts vary by parish.

Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, sponsor of the bill, said he is “willing to try anything” to address congestion issues in the area.

His bill would require any truck-tractor, trailer, semitrailer or school bus to stay in the far right lane while traveling along stretches of Interstates10, 12, and 110 in East Baton Rouge Parish. The restriction along 31 miles of highway would be in effect on weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, said during a committee hearing on the bill that the truck rule is impractical. Specifically, he questions how large trucks would be able to maneuver through multiple lanes near the I-10/I-12 split headed east toward the city of Hammond.

“It can’t happen,” Pope said. “(The truck lane restriction) is not the answer (to solving the congestion issue).”

The Department of Transportation and Development would be required to post signs alerting truck and bus drivers about the rule.

The bill, HB432, awaits a final House floor vote. If approved, it would move to the Senate.

Pennsylvania
One House bill singles out large trucks in the left lane.

HB2032 would create “commuter lanes zones” in congested areas. The intent is to restrict vehicles with more than two axles from accessing the left lane.

Violators would face $100 fines.

Zones would be a minimum of 7 miles long. Municipalities would have the option of asking the Pennsylvania DOT to establish a commuter lanes zone within their limits.

“As any experienced driver knows, large trucks traveling in the left lane of highways can be both dangerous and an impediment to traffic flow,” wrote Rep. Eli Evankovich, R- Murrysville.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

Oklahoma
Less than one year after enacting a new rule for left lane use, multiple efforts underway at the capitol would make revisions to the rule. Elected officials want to further discourage drivers from hanging out in the passing lane.

The Sooner State already limits left-lane use on highways with at least two lanes of traffic in the same direction. Since Nov. 1, state law specifies that drivers are required to stay to the right unless passing or preparing to turn left, or for safety measures.

The state has erected more than 200 signs notifying travelers “slower traffic keep right” and warning them not to “impede the left lane.”

Violators face $235 fines.

The House voted 51-43 to advance a bill to revise exiting law in an effort to prohibit large trucks accessing the far left-hand lane.

Sponsored by Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, HB3306 would limit truck traffic from the left lane on roadways with at least three lanes of traffic in one direction.

Exceptions would be made for moving left to accommodate merging traffic, and preparing for a left turn.

During House floor discussion Wright said other states, including Texas, have the truck rule in place.

“It helps to get traffic through, because what happens is a truck will pull right in front of you sometimes – if you don’t have that law – and impede traffic,” Wright said.

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 government affairs, says that by restricting the movement of trucks to the right lane, trucks will inevitably block entrance and exit ramps and impede motorists from safely entering and exiting the roadway.

He adds 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.

Wright’s bill requires signs to be posted to alert affected drivers.

The bill has since advanced from two Senate committees and awaits further consideration in the chamber. If approved there, HB3306 would go back to the House for approval of changes before it could move to the governor’s desk.

The House voted 87-1 to advance a bill to amend the 2017 law. HB3290 specifies that roadways within the city limits of a municipality would not be covered by the lane-use rule, as long as such roadways are not part of the interstate highway system.

Road conditions and weather conditions also would be added to the list of exceptions for left lane use.

The Senate Public Safety Committee has since voted to move the bill to the full Senate. If approved there, it would head to the governor’s desk.

Similarly, a Senate-approved bill would limit application of the 2017 law to interstates or turnpikes. SB1025 is in the House Rules Committee.

Efforts to limit lane use in other states would apply to all vehicles.

Illinois
A Senate bill covers left-lane use on interstates or fully access-controlled freeways.

State law limits left lane use for actions that include overtaking or passing another vehicle.

SB2820 would add an exception for instances when no other vehicle is directly behind the vehicle in the left lane.

The bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Minnesota
One 76-page bill that has taken the first step toward passage includes a provision to penalize slowpokes in the far left-hand lane of highways.

Minnesota 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.

Violators face fines up to $125.

The Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee voted to advance a bill to set the fine at a minimum of $100. There is no specified maximum fine amount.

SF3806 awaits further consideration in the Senate.

New Hampshire
Left-lane laggards in the Granite State also are the target of a House-approved bill.

State law specifies that anyone driving slower than the normal speed of traffic must stay in the right lane except to pass or turn left.

HB1595 would eliminate the speed language in the rule. Instead, the bill states that vehicles must travel in the right lane unless passing another vehicle.

Violators would face $50 fines.

The Senate Transportation Committee has since voted to advance the bill to the Senate floor. If approved there, it would head to the governor’s desk.

PrePass

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.