If drivers camping in the left lane is the number one pet peeve on Washington state roads, semi-trucks using the left lane might be number two.
A texter recently wrote:
Sully, it is my understanding that big rigs, semi-trucks, are not supposed to be in the left lane except for passing, correct? It is ridiculous. Police officers set up observation areas and pull people over for being on their phone or in the commuter lane with only one person, however, they never seem to care how many trucks are blocking that left lane. Sorry, had to vent.
RCW 46.61.100 says “No vehicle towing a trailer or no vehicle or combination over ten thousand pounds may be driven in the left-hand lane of a limited access roadway having three or more lanes for traffic moving in one direction except when preparing for a left turn at an intersection, exit, or into a private road or driveway when a left turn is legally permitted.” This also applies to cars and trucks towing a trailer.
However, the entire law goes out the window in certain areas of the state. There is another law, WAC 468-510-020, that creates exemptions to this rule, allowing big rigs and trailers in the left lane around centers of commerce, such as I-5 between Southcenter and Marysville, I-5 through Vancouver, I-90 through Seattle ,and other places. I-405 is not exempt.
Trooper Johnson said the State Patrol does go after trucks that violate this law outside the exempted areas.
“I understand that the people that drive the same commute every day and see the same violation every day the perception is ‘where’s the State Patrol,'” he said. “If it’s during rush hour, we’re probably at accidents, but we are very aware of the law and we do enforce it.”
There is a special commercial trucking division of the Washington State Patrol and an aggressive driving unit that focuses on these kinds of violations, but they have to see the violation to do something to enforce the law.
If you see a truck violating the left-lane law, have a passenger snap a photo and send it the state patrol.
“If there’s a plate or the name of a trucking company included in that, what we attempt to do is follow up,” Trooper Johnson said. “We can call them and say ‘this was observed, your truck was in the left lane, this date, this time, this area.'”
That company will receive a letter letting them know the State Patrol is watching.
Trooper Johnson asks that you to give the trucks a little slack on this, especially if they are setting themselves up for an upcoming lane change or exit.
“They can’t just find a little spot, move over and then take the exit they want to take,” he said. “Take the whole geographical area into account and give them some slack if they seem to be setting themselves up to take an exit.”
Now, if that truck is camping in the left lane for a mile or more, snap that photo and get the State Patrol on the case.