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Semis may be prohibited from highway fast lane

Ohio truckers say proposed law is more unnecessary regulation

Semi-truck drivers in Ohio would be largely prohibited from using the fast lane on many highways if a bill proposed in the House becomes law.

House Bill 100 would require vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds be driven in the two right-hand lanes of a freeway with three lanes of travel in the same direction, except when necessary or ordered otherwise by law enforcement.

A violation could result in a $150 fine. A similar bill last year never made it to a vote.

Ohio’s trucking association says a proposed law limiting truck drivers to the right two lanes of highways is just more unnecessary regulation.

Tom Balzer, president of the 850-member Ohio Trucking Association, said the legislation isn’t necessary because truck drivers already try to stay in the right lanes and the language of the bill is too restrictive.

“Without question truck drivers feel better and safer in the right lanes than the left lane because of blind spots,” Balzer said. “We do our best to stay as far to the right as we can. The way the bill is written — it’s a right two-lane restriction.”

But state Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley, said she experiences problems on her weekly commutes to Columbus on Interstate 71 from the Akron area. It’s common, she said, for trucks to take up three lanes and block drivers who want to travel faster.

She thinks the bill’s chances of passing this year are good. States surrounding Ohio already have similar laws and the Ohio Turnpike in the northern part of the state requires truckers to keep to the right.

“It’s for safety,” she said. “An emergency vehicle could come up and have to go around.”

An over-the-road trucker who stopped in Dayton Thursday, Eric Larson, 55, of Grand Forks, N.D., said the change in law would be consistent with rules in other states.

“It’s pretty standard,” he said. “There’s always a downside, but with no trucks in the left lane, traffic runs smoother.”

Leah Hogue, a daily commuter on Interstate 75 from her Vandalia home to her job in Kettering, supports the law change. “A lot of my friends are truck drivers and they say it’s just easier to stay in one lane,” she said.

Balzer said the law could cause unintended consequences with truckers in the right two lanes obstructing highway exits and entries. He said one study indicated lane restrictions can increase crashes because of problems when too many trucks are restricted to two lanes.

Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp., who has a seat on the House Transportation Committee, is skeptical of the bill.

“I would be concerned with limiting the ability of truckers on the road or highways,” he said. “Most of our industries move their product by trucks. The trucking industry is vital to our economy.”

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