If you ever drove outside the state of California and found yourself sandwiched between two big rigs on a highway, you know how terrifying it can be. Should you speed up or slow down? Is one of them going enter your lane, unaware of your presence, causing a serious crash? In California, the truck to your left would be guilty an “out of lane’” violation.
You have probably noticed that some CHP officers drive pickups with enclosed beds and wear blue utility uniforms in lieu of the more familiar tan police uniform. These officers are usually part of the CHP’s Commercial Mobile Road Enforcement Unit. The main focus of the unit is the safe and efficient operation of commercial vehicles, including enforcement of the California truck lane restrictions.
In California it is unlawful for tractor-trailers and other vehicles “in combination” to drive in the two left lanes when three lanes move in one direction. If there are four lanes those vehicles may travel in the two lanes farthest to the right. In combination applies to any vehicle towing another vehicle or trailer. In addition the law also applies to any truck, RV or any other vehicle with three or more axles. Restricted vehicles are permitted to use the center lane on a three-lane highway to pass a slower moving vehicle without exceeding the 55 mph truck speed limit.
In addition, lane restrictions apply to the following:
- Truck, SUV, pickup or car towing a boat trailer, camper, or moving trailer.
- Motor home (RV) towing a trailer
- Rental vehicle towing a trailer
- Van, minivan or bus towing a trailer
- Any vehicle towing another vehicle
- Any vehicle towing a fifth wheel, pull of semi-trailer.
Violation of the California truck lane restrictions can result in fines up to $250 for a third violation within one year. Slower moving vehicles must stay in the far right hand lane except to pass or to make a left hand turn. The California Highway Patrol strictly enforces the truck lane restrictions. The law is designed to reduce collisions, traffic congestion and road rage.
Certain vehicles are also subject to speed restrictions. California Vehicle Code Section 22406 states: No person may drive any of the following vehicles on a highway at a speed in excess of 55 mph:
- A motor truck or truck tractor having three of more axles or any motor truck or truck tractor drawing any other vehicle.
- A passenger vehicle or bus drawing any other vehicle.
- A school bus transporting any school pupil.
- A farm labor vehicle when transporting passengers.
- A vehicle transporting explosives
Truck Only Lanes
In most states trucks and smaller vehicles are forced to coexist on the highways, with some highways prohibiting trucks from the extreme left hand lane. California is unique, not only for it’s truck lane restriction rules, but also for its truck only lanes. California currently has only two truck only lanes with studies in the works for more. These lanes are designated for trucks only and smaller vehicles are discouraged, but not prohibited, from using them. The two lanes that exist at present are:
- Northbound and Southbound I-5 in LA County at the State Route 14 split. Beginning as two roads northbound at LA County postmile CO43.925 and southbound at postmile CO43.899, both roads meet at postmile CO44.924. The roads run 2.426 miles northbound and 2.452 miles southbound. In existence for over thirty years these lanes separate the slower moving trucks from the faster moving traffic.
- Southbound I-5 in Kern County at the State Route 39 junction. The truck only lane begins on Route 99 near the Grapevine, postmile L000-629 and continues for 0.346 miles until I-5 at postmile R-15.492. This lane is designed to allow large trucks to merge farther downstream from the point where other vehicles merge between I-5 and State Route 99. Preventing collisions between trucks and cars in an already difficult merge lane is the purpose of this truck only lane.
All large trucks are required to travel in truck only lanes where they exist. Black and white signs clearly mark the beginning and end of the truck only lanes. These are enforceable signs that truckers must obey. Failure to use truck only lanes can result in fines. Large green signs discourage other drivers from using truck only lanes but green signs are not enforceable. Technically passenger vehicles may drive in truck only lanes but it is unsafe and not recommended.
Injured in a Truck Crash?
If you were injured in a crash involving a truck or other commercial vehicle, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer. You may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. It is important to understand your legal rights and decide how to move forward. Be aware that trucking companies often have highly experienced legal teams working for them that will fight hard to keep your compensation as low as possible. You may speak with an experienced truck accident attorney today by calling 818-991-8900 or by filling out the easy online form here. Do not wait too long as your time to file a case is limited.