Are Trucks Allowed to Drive in the Left Lane?
Virtually every driver will eventually encounter a slow-moving leading driver in the left lane on the highway, which is typically reserved for passing and faster-moving traffic. This is not only irritating for trailing drivers but also potentially dangerous. Slow-moving vehicles on the left tend to bog down the flow of traffic, increasing the likelihood of accidents. Since trucks are larger and inherently more dangerous than most other passenger vehicles, it is especially dangerous for trucks to linger in the left lane.
The Legality of Trucks in the Left Lane
Most states have enacted a law prohibiting trucks from using the left-most lane on the highway or limiting left lane use solely to passing. Truck drivers must adhere to state laws, and state laws can change dramatically. A truck driver should know which laws will apply during a long-distance route and change driving habits accordingly. It may be legal for the truck to use the left lane in one state only for it to be illegal in the next, and another state may restrict left lane use solely for passing.
Many truck drivers find these policies irritating or outright disruptive for several reasons. Confinement to the rightmost lanes on the highway means a truck driver must contend with merging traffic from onramps. Most highway accidents occur due to sudden speed changes, such as a driver suddenly hitting the brakes during a merge to avoid hitting a passing vehicle.
State Laws for Left Lane Usage
Several states uphold specific laws pertaining to trucks while most simply apply the same laws universally to all drivers and expect them to use good judgment and drive safely for conditions. Truck drivers in certain states should take care to follow state left lane laws at all times.
- California requires any driver who is driving slower than the flow of surrounding traffic to use the rightmost lane when not passing other drivers.
- Indiana upholds a law against “slowpoke” drivers. A driver who occupies the left lane without passing in a way that prevents other drivers from passing could face a fine of $500 or more.
- Oregon law requires commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds to use the right lanes whenever possible, with few exceptions.
- Hawaii legislators recently introduced a bill that would prohibit trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more from using the left lane on any road with three or more lanes.
- Washington state law prohibits any commercial vehicle from using the left lane on a road with three or more lanes.
- New Jersey roads have designated areas where trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more cannot use the left lane. Violations can lead to fines up to $300.
- Many other states have introduced legislation to restrict left lane usage for commercial truck drivers. When a truck driver fails to adhere to such a law and causes an accident, liability for the resulting damages will almost certainly fall to the truck driver.
All drivers should remember that although a slow-moving driver lingering in the left lane can be frustrating, it is never worth engaging in potentially dangerous driving maneuvers to avoid the slow driver. Eventually, the driver will need to move over for one reason or another, so it is always best to leave a comfortable space between a driver’s vehicle and a leading vehicle.
Many drivers hold to the rule of allowing one car length of space for every 10 mph of speed. For example, if you are driving at 60 mph, you should try to leave about six car lengths of space between your vehicle and a leading vehicle, if possible. However, all drivers should know how to move with the flow of traffic. Regardless of what type of vehicle you drive, you should keep to the right at all times except to pass slower-moving vehicles.