What Are Truck-Only Lanes?
Every year, thousands of serious traffic accidents involve commercial trucks. Large trucks and big rigs pose serious threats to smaller passenger vehicles. They typically carry trailers and ride on 18 wheels, reaching weights of 80,000 pounds or more. They often carry hazardous materials such as flammable chemicals. A collision between a large truck and a car almost always ends in more damage to the latter. More than 4,600 fatal accidents in the US in 2017 involved large trucks. One way in which the State of California tries to reduce the number of large truck accidents it through the use of truck-only lanes.
How Do Truck-Only Lanes Work?
Truck-only lanes are exactly what the name implies: highway lanes that only permit large trucks to use them. California is one of only a few states with truck-only lanes. In California, these lanes are separated from the rest of the highway, with signs stating they are for trucks and trucks only. The purpose of a truck-only lane is to separate commercial carriers from normal passenger vehicles on busy parts of the highway. Separating them can decrease the risk of catastrophic truck accidents, as well as lighten up traffic on the main highway where smaller vehicles move faster than big rigs.
The signs directing trucks to use these lanes are black and white, meaning they are enforceable by law and all truckers must obey them. The signs directing passenger vehicle drivers not to use truck-only lanes are green, meaning they are not enforceable. It is against the law, therefore, for a truck driver not to use a truck-only lane, but not for a passenger vehicle driver to use a truck-only lane. While regular motorists should not use California’s truck-only lanes, they will not face penalties for doing so. If a truck driver passes a truck-only lane and continues driving on the main highway, on the other hand, he or she may have to pay a fine.
Where Are California’s Truck-Only Lanes?
Although lawmakers are discussing adding more truck-only lanes, currently California only has two, both on Interstate 5 (I-5). I-5 in Los Angeles County has a northbound and southbound truck-only lane on I-5 starting at the State Route 14 split. The total lengths of these truck-only lanes are 2.426 miles northbound and 2.452 miles southbound. These lanes divide large trucks from faster-moving general traffic on I-5 for less congestion.
The other truck-only lane in California is a southbound lane off of I-5 in Kern County, starting near the Grapevine at the State Route 99 junction. The length of this truck-only lane is 0.346 miles. Its main purpose is to funnel commercial traffic farther down I-5, away from where general traffic merges onto the highway from State Route 99, to prevent backups and merge accidents. California’s truck-only lanes are unique in that they physically separate trucks from the rest of traffic, with rules discouraging general traffic use, rather than forcing trucks to use the right-hand lane on a shared highway.
What if a Truck Driver Fails to Use a Truck-Only Lane?
Truck-only lanes serve several purposes. They divide large trucks and passenger cars to increase safety for motorists. They remove slower-moving trucks from general traffic in congested areas to help free up road space and stabilize traffic. They also allow truckers to drive without worrying about other motorists cutting them off or driving too slowly in front of them, helping them make deliveries on time.
If a truck driver in California does not use a truck-only lane when mandated, he or she could face a traffic ticket as well as repercussions from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The fine for an infraction could go up to $250 for a third offense within one year. If a truck gets into an accident with a smaller vehicle while not using a truck-only lane, the truck company could be vicariously liable for damages due to the truck driver disobeying the rules of the truck-only lane. Talk to a skilled Los Angeles truck accident attorney for more information about a truck accident case.