Are Trucks Allowed to Drive in the Left Lane?

Most of us have experienced how annoying it can be to be stuck behind a big truck in the left lane of a highway. However, slow-moving vehicles on the left are more than just irritating, they can be potentially dangerous. For this reason, in some states, large trucks and other slow-moving vehicles are not allowed to drive in the far-left lane, or are limited to using the left lane only for passing.

The Problem with Slower Vehicles in the Left Lane

The far left lane of multi-lane highways are typically reserved only for drivers who are passing. It's not uncommon for motorists to become frustrated at being slowed down by trucks travelling in the left lane. On the other hand, truckers sometimes prefer to travel in the left lane in order to avoid the disruption that can be caused by avoiding traffic merging from onramps into the right-hand lane.

Overall, too many drivers in the left lanes of highways can contribute to serious traffic problems. Highway accidents are more frequently caused by sudden changes in speed or lane changes than by exceeding the speed limit. Encountering a slow-moving vehicle in the left lane often leads a motorist to weaving in and out of traffic lanes, which increases the likelihood of a potentially serious accident.

Truck-Related State Laws

Due to the dangers of slow-moving vehicles in the left highway lanes, some states have passed laws limited what type of vehicles are allowed to travel in the left lane. Some laws cover all slower moving traffic, while some target trucks or categorize vehicles based on weight.

Some examples of laws limiting trucks and other slow-moving vehicles in the left-hand lanes includes:

  • California: The California vehicle code requires that any vehicle that is travelling at a "less than normal" rate of speed on a highway must be driven in the right lanes when not passing.
  • Hawaii: The Hawaiian Legislature has introduced a bill that would prohibit vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds from using the far left lane on roads with three or more lanes of traffic.
  • Washington: A state law prohibits commercial vehicles from traveling in the far left lane on roads with three or more lanes.
  • Indiana: Under state law, "slowpoke" drivers can be fined up to $500 for driving in the left lane in a way which preventing another vehicle from passing.
  • Oregon: Trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, as well as campers and trailers, are limited to the right lanes on highways, subject to certain exceptions.
  • New Jersey: Drivers on New Jersey highways will encounter signs prohibiting trucks from using the left lane, and violators can be fined up to $300.

Many other states are considering introducing similar legislation that would limit what types of vehicles can legally travel in the left-hand highway lanes.

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