California Truck Lane Restrictions

When you are driving on the highway, it can be stressful to be around larger semi-trucks and other large vehicles on the roadway. These vehicles can weigh tens of thousands of pounds and reach lengths of up to 75 feet. Accidents with larger vehicles can lead to serious injuries or even fatalities. In California, the state has passed laws that limit which lanes their large trucks can use in an effort to ensure safer traffic flow. If you will be driving on California highways, it is important to understand what the state’s truck lane restrictions are. In the event you are injured in an accident caused by a negligent truck driver, speak with a skilled Santa Ana truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to learn your legal rights.

Understanding California Truck Lane Restrictions

California is the most populated state US and boasts the largest economy of all the states. This means that there is a particularly large number of commercial vehicles traveling the highways around California. Unfortunately, when we look at data available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), we can see that there were more than 77,000 injuries and 4,649 total fatalities in the US caused by commercial trucks during the latest year of data available.

The state of California restricts which lanes that larger and heavier vehicles are allowed to travel in. In some areas of the state, California does not allow slower-moving vehicles to use the left lanes of the highway. These lanes are often reserved for vehicles that need to pass slower-moving vehicles on the highway.

Lanes reserved strictly for larger vehicles will depend on the total number of lanes on each highway. If there are three lanes or less traveling in the same direction (not including carpool lanes), the trucks must use the far-right Lane. If there are four or more lanes traveling in each direction on the highway, trucks are allowed to use the two right-hand lanes.

California has also passed laws that require any slower moving vehicle to use the right-hand lanes of a highway, regardless of the vehicle’s size. On Interstate 5, which connects Southern and Northern California, there are “truck-only lanes” that entirely separate large commercial vehicles in order to help keep the roads safer and stabilize the flow of traffic. Specifically, these lanes are located at:

  • Northbound and southbound 1-5 in LA County at the State Route 14 split.
  • Southbound I-5 in Kern County at the State Route 99 junction.

Truck drivers will see black and white signs the direct them to truck-only lanes on specific areas on Interstate 5. Passenger vehicles are not prohibited from using truck-only lanes, but this is not recommended.

Who Regulates California Truck Lanes?

The California Highway Patrol is responsible for enforcing all commercial truck lane restrictions on highways throughout the state. The CHP has specific units and vehicles tasked with commercial vehicle enforcement. Larger vehicles that violate the laws set in place regarding speed and restricted Lane travel can be ticketed and fined by the CHP.

Are There Any Federal Laws Regarding Truck Lanes?

Any large commercial truck that operates across state lines (which is a majority of the trucks in California) must also adhere to regulations put forth by the FMCSA. However, the federal government does not have any regulations in place regarding which lanes trucks must operate in. This matter is left to the states to decide. However, the FMCSA does strictly regulate a truck driver’s hours of service (HOS) as well as the inspection and maintenance requirements for truck owners and operators.

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