The typical rule to “keep right except to pass” is a little trickier when you’re hurtling down the interstate in 80,000 pounds of metal.
Still, reader Steve Zwaller, of Stanwood, wonders why many long-haul truckers continue to drive in the center lane of I-5 in sections where the speed limit is 70 mph, since big rigs are restricted to 60 mph.
“It is irritating when a vehicle or another truck is in the right lane traveling at the same speed, limiting 70 mph traffic to the left lane. This creates backups, especially during the higher traffic times. And especially frustrating when a truck is traveling up a hill, such as north of the Arlington exit, and is going less than 60 mph,” Zwaller said.
First, let’s talk about why trucks always seem to be in the center lane.
State law restricts commercial trucks to the two right lanes. Because of exit and entrance ramps that draw shifting traffic, truckers often stick to the center lane.
“Professional truck drivers driving the interstate in Washington state on a daily basis know the habits of the motoring public,” said Jim Tutton, vice president of the Washington Trucking Associations. Sometimes those habits can create close calls, and a truck’s not exactly nimble.
“It is much easier for the automobile driver to move into the far left lane for passing purposes, where commercial trucks are prohibited,” Tutton said.
That said, truck drivers should move to the far right lane when they come to an incline or a hill that will slow them down below 60 mph, Tutton said.
We find the details spelled out in that “keep right except when passing” state law (RCW 46.61.100).
There, the law says trucks must drive only in the right-hand lane unless they are passing, traveling at a speed greater than traffic flow, moving left to allow traffic to merge, or preparing for a left turn.
If they are in the center lane and not doing any of those things, they could face a $136 traffic infraction.
As for Zwaller’s idea to add an extra restriction for those 70 mph zones? That’s a question for the Legislature.
Zwaller is hopeful, and he’s already contacted his local lawmaker.
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