Truckers rip New Jersey plan to restrict highway traffic

(The Center Square) — Truckers are trashing a New Jersey proposal to set new lane restrictions and increase fines along the state’s highways, saying it would create a traffic “nightmare” along major commercial corridors.

The proposal, which cleared the Assembly’s Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee on Thursday, would require trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or greater to travel in the right lane only when there are three lanes in the same direction. The bill would also increase fines from upwards of $300 to $600 per violation.

Backers of the plan say it’s aimed at improving public safety amid recent crashes involving tractor-trailers and increased commercial traffic along the state’s highways.

But critics, like the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey and New Jersey Motor Truck Association, said it would create a “traffic and safety nightmare on all New Jersey major roadways by greatly impeding the flow of traffic for trucks.”

“If enacted, this bill will needlessly delay the movement of goods,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Of far greater concern is the safety nightmare this will cause merging onto highways and entering and exiting businesses.”

Trucks are already prohibited from traveling in the far-left lane of roadways with at least three lanes heading in the same direction, including the traffic-choked New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Violators face fines ranging from $100 to $300, which would double under the proposed legislation.

The bill would also require truckers to appear in court to pay any tickets they get for violating the lane restrictions instead of paying it online or through the mail.

The committee also voted to advance a bill requiring commercial trucking companies to use global positioning systems to inform their drivers about highway weight restrictions, low-lying bridges, and other potential hazards.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio, R-Hackettstown, said equipping trucks with GPS technology will help avoid incidents like the one in 2017 when an 18-wheel truck drove down an Atlantic City boardwalk after veering off course.

“Going off course has proven very costly for not just the truck driver, but municipalities who have to try to alleviate unexpected traffic jams and repair roadways,” DiMaio said in a statement.

But truckers and others also raised concerns about that proposal, which they argue would increase transportation costs that would ultimately be passed on to consumers.

“We’re still having supply-chain challenges, record inflation. We have a significant driver shortage,” Mary Ellen Peppard, the council’s vice president, told the panel during Thursday’s hearing. “At least a portion of increased costs have to be passed on to consumers because our members have such small operating margins.”

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