Modified: November 19, 2022

Truck-only Lanes – What are They?

The United States has an extensive road network, allowing large commercial trucks to deliver goods from one state to the other. States with the most economic activity, such as California, Utah, Colorado, and more, have plenty of large trucks in operation on the highways to ensure the delivery of goods.

Commercial trucks can reach lengths of up to 75 feet and carry up to 80,000 pounds of weight. The sheer massive size of these trucks makes it difficult for truck drivers to identify any vehicles in their blind spots, increasing the risk of traffic accidents. Truck accidents can lead to severe injuries due to their heavy weight, which can even result in permanent damage. Injuries could include head injuries, spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and even wrongful death, depending on the impact of a truck accident’s severity.

In all of the states, trucks are mostly restricted to certain lanes that cars can also use. However, some states, including California, have truck-only lanes that are specifically used by trucks. To avoid any unfortunate incident, it is important to go over the regulations regarding commercial trucks in the state you’re traveling in.

Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys have had numerous multi-million dollar verdicts pertaining to injuries and wrongful deaths as a result of truck accidents. If you suffered injuries from a truck accident in California, reach out to our attorneys, as you will need a strong legal team to protect your interests against large trucking companies.

What are Truck-only Lanes?

Truck-only lanes are lanes on a highway that are only used by trucks. These lanes are there to separate large commercial vehicles from normal traffic to enhance safety, stabilize traffic flow, and prevent truck accidents.

It is not common to find truck-only lanes in the United States. This is because many states have regulations in place that allow trucks to drive in certain lanes. Usually, trucks must drive in the far right lanes or outer lanes, but this depends on how many lanes the highway has. Trucks must drive in the right two lanes on a four-lane highway, but on a three-lane road, they must remain on the far right but can use the middle lane to pass.

Very few states have truck-only lanes in place that allow trucks and no other vehicle to travel in that designated lane on the highway. In California, you’ll find two truck-only lanes that have signs stating that the lanes are for trucks only.

The main purpose of these types of lanes is to separate trucks and commercial carriers from normal passenger vehicles. In the majority of truck accidents, it is usually the truck driver who does not spot a vehicle in the truck’s blind spot, resulting in a devastating accident when turning or switching lanes. Truck-only lanes help prevent such accidents and lighten up traffic on the main highway.

There are signs in black and white on truck-only lanes directing truck drivers to use those specific lanes on the highway. The black and white signs indicate that the law is binding on truck drivers and that they must abide by it. However, there is also a sign directing passenger vehicle drivers to avoid using truck-only lanes, but that sign is in green, which means that the law is not enforceable.

Passenger vehicle drivers should avoid driving in truck-only lanes, but there is no penalty if they are caught driving on them. But if a truck driver avoids the truck-only lanes and drives on the main highway, they may be susceptible to fines and other penalties.

California’s Truck-only Lanes

Currently, California has two truck-only lanes, and both of these are in Los Angeles County on Interstate-5. On the I-5, the truck lane begins as two roads, northbound (2.426 miles) and southbound (2.452 miles). These lanes are responsible for dividing the large commercial vehicles from the passenger cars to improve the overall flow of traffic on the I-5.

The second truck-only lane in California starts near Grapevine at Route 99 in Kern County and ends at I-5, measuring a total distance of 0.346 miles. The main idea of this truck-only lane is to funnel commercial vehicles down the I-5, away from where the general traffic from Route 99 merges onto the main highway, preventing merge accidents.

What Happens If a Truck Driver Ignores Using Truck-only Lanes?

It is important to understand the purpose of truck-only lanes to know what implications it might have on the general flow of traffic if a truck driver fails to use these special lanes.

There are several purposes that exclusive truck lanes aim to achieve. They provide motorists with increased safety by dividing passenger cars and large trucks, helping reduce the chances of collisions between the two.

Another purpose that the truck-only lanes serve is that they remove slower-moving trucks or slower-moving traffic from the general traffic, helping stabilize the traffic flow and freeing up road space.

Truck-only lanes also allow truckers a dedicated lane to drive without any worries. They don’t have to worry about passenger car drivers cutting them off and honking at them for driving too slowly. It provides the truckers with peace of mind while on the road and ensures timely deliveries.

As mentioned previously, the warning signs in the black and white state that the truck-only lanes are for truck drivers, which means that the law is enforceable. Where there are truck-only lanes, truck drivers must drive their commercial vehicles on those lanes. Avoiding truck-only lanes and driving on the main highway can result in a traffic ticket and even fines of up to $250, depending on the offense.

Another huge repercussion that truck drivers could face is when accidents happen. Driving a truck on the main highway instead of the designated truck-only lanes could hold truck companies responsible in the event of an accident.

Benefits of Truck-only Lanes

Benefits to Trucking Firms

One of the major benefits to trucking firms is the reduced risk of accidents between their trucks and passenger cars. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in 71% of two-vehicle collisions between a truck and a passenger car, the police reported two or more errors or factors pertaining to the behavior of the passenger vehicle driver and zero factors or errors for the truck driver.

The recent “nuclear verdicts,” where the jury awarded more than $10 million for truck-related accidents, are threatening the trucking industry. Although insurance companies pay for this compensation, trucking firms face the financial brunt in the form of higher insurance premiums. This can throw off their per-mile costs and, in some cases, even result in losses on some routes.

Truck-only lanes can prevent collisions between large commercial vehicles and passenger cars, which would benefit the trucking industry in the form of lower premiums and higher productivity because more trucks are on the road than in a mechanic’s yard due to repairs.

Trucks are large vehicles that take time to accelerate. Braking constantly on the main highway can reduce the efficiency of trucks and increase their transportation costs. Truck-only lanes are a great way to avoid braking, increase their vehicle’s efficiency, and reduce per-mile costs.

Many states oppose the use of longer combination vehicles (LCV) on main highways, but if there were changes in the law that would allow these types of vehicles to drive on truck-only lanes, it could improve the productivity of a trucking company. LCVs can also reduce the number of trips made and increase the number of goods delivered at the same time.

Benefits to Passenger Cars

Truck-only lanes can benefit passenger cars in the form of enhanced safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in crashes involving large trucks and passenger cars, 97% of the deaths are occupants of passenger vehicles. 74% of big rig vehicle collisions with passenger cars result in fatal accidents.

These statistics prove that a collision with a truck can not only cause property damage but also lead to a loss of life. Separating trucks from passenger vehicles on a highway can reduce the risk of accidents and improve passenger safety.

Another major benefit to passenger cars is less stress. When you’re driving down a highway and see a small vehicle boxed between multiple trucks, you’re glad you’re not that person. Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone, and getting boxed in between multiple trucks is stressful and frightening for some. If all vehicles were roughly the same size, then it wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but since these are big rigs, it can negatively affect the traveling experience.

Improving the flow of traffic is also a benefit to passenger vehicles. Trucks take time to accelerate, and once they brake, they can create slow-moving traffic behind them. Separating trucks from passenger vehicles would improve the flow of traffic as there would be no slow-moving vehicles on the main highway. TRB’s Highway Capacity Manual states that one truck can take the space of up to eight cars, which can slow down traffic. Truck-only lanes can allow more space for normal vehicles, but it does come at the cost of increased car accidents on highways.

Financing of Truck-only Lanes

The barrier to having more truck-only lanes in the country is the cost of it. Experts estimate the expenditure to be around $2.5 million per mile. With two truck-only lanes going both ways, it could reach a total of $10 million per mile. The cost does not make sense, especially for truck lanes on major highways for long stretches.

Governments are trying to figure out the financing of such lanes, and currently, there are two options that they can explore:

  • Only trucks pay for the toll
  • All vehicles pay for the toll.

The problem here is the cost-benefit analysis by the trucking companies. If the trucking company analyzes that the costs of using truck-only lanes are more than the benefits they offer, they would try to avoid these lanes and travel on other highways to reach their destination. This would leave the passenger vehicles paying most of the expenditure of the truck-only lanes when the benefits are clearly swayed towards large commercial vehicles.

Although there is a huge benefit to expanding truck-only lanes across the United States for both trucks and passenger cars, it is highly unlikely that the United States government will allocate financial resources toward constructing long stretches of truck-only lanes. It’s just too expensive for the government to consider.

If you are a victim of a truck accident, contact us at +(833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation. Fighting a claim against large trucking companies can be challenging, but with our legal team on your side, you stand a chance of recovering compensation for your loss.

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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