CMV Law: Operation On Multi-lane Highways In GA

Operation on Multi-lane Highways

Trucks (defined for the purposes of this Rule of the Road as all vehicles with over six wheels other than buses and motorcoaches) are prohibited from operating in the left lane on highways with three or more lanes traveling in the same direction unless they are preparing for a left turn. On highways of two lanes traveling in the same direction, trucks may only operate in the left lane if actually overtaking and passing another vehicle or preparing for a left turn. On interstate highways with four or more lanes traveling in the same direction, the Georgia Department of Transportation may designate specific lanes that trucks may or may not use by erecting proper signage. The manner in which regulation incrementally restricts a truck’s use of Georgia roadways dependent on the available number of lanes is worth noting for a few reasons. It may even be helpful to read the statute accordingly.

Georgia CMV trucking regultionsThe Rule Of Two Lanes

Starting with the “two lanes” rule of subsection (c) that prohibits a truck from using the left lane, counsel is advised of a possible basis for negligence per se when a truck is found to be operating outside the right lane. The issue then becomes whether the driver will claim to have been overtaking or passing another vehicle or preparing to turn left, thus avoiding noncompliance with the statute. The driver and/or his supervisor should be questioned as to his intended destination to determine if an alleged left turn in the area of the wreck constituted a compatible route. Of course, plaintiff’s counsel arguably has all the evidence he needs to show no such maneuver was contemplated where the distance between the site of the wreck and the next available left turn is significant. If passing or overtaking is the claimed safe harbor, more interesting issues are raised. Even though operating in the left lane while performing such a maneuver will insulate the driver from violating regulation, it indicates aggressive driving behavior in a confined and often rural or residential setting and presents other potential questions. Because long-haul trucks are typically present on two-lane, non-interstate roads only when beginning or terminating a given trip or making deliveries, a driver that is passing or overtaking other vehicles is usually a driver in a hurry. He is likely anxious to drop off his load, get off his shift, and maybe even catch some much-needed sleep. Counsel should look into not only the truck’s point of origin and intended destination, but also the driver’s logs, shipment schedule, and any traffic or weather conditions on the roadway at the time that could have made such a maneuver intrinsically unsafe. Eyewitnesses should be asked to describe as to the truck’s speed, maneuvering, use of turn signals. Such questions are not just important only in those cases where the wreck occurred while the truck was passing or overtaking a vehicle. For obvious reasons, an eyewitness’ testimony that the truck was observed maneuvering aggressively moments before the wreck took place a short ways down the road is evidence that no plaintiff wants left out of their case in chief.

The Rule Of Three Or More Lanes

Moving to the “three or more lanes” rule of subsection (b), a truck must stay in the two most right-hand lanes. Here, there is only one pronounced exception permitting use of the left lane; that is, when the truck is preparing for a left turn. Therefore, the same questions as to intended destination and compatible routes should be asked.
Finally, the “four or more lanes” rule of subsection (d) must be considered with three things in mind. First, the code section specifies the rule applies only to “interstate highways.” Large industrial-type state route roadways not part of the national interstate highway system are not covered by the rule even if they meet or exceed the four-lane threshold. Second, the rule is not really a rule of its own at all. It is simply enabling legislation that permits GDOT to designate which interstate lanes trucks may or may not use, so long as they erect signs indicating the designations. The presence and propriety of those signs can be significant when claiming a negligence per se violation. Third, the decision by GDOT to prohibit or allow trucks in designated interstate lanes pursuant to the power granted to it by the General Assembly under subsection (d) trumps the restrictions and allowances of the previous subsection (b) and (c). Conversely, in the absence of any action by GDOT in this regard, the “three or more lanes” rule of subsection (b) will apply to truck drivers on an interstate highway of four or more lanes. By its terms, § 40-6-52 concerns the locations on the roadway in which a truck is not permitted to operate. Accordingly, because it focuses more on where as opposed to how, proximate cause can be an issue in cases premised on a violation of this statute. Finally, although one would assume it would not normally be difficult to determine whether a vehicle had more than six wheels such as to be subject to the statute, that was precisely the issue in one appellate case discussing this regulation.

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