The signs are so obvious that you almost can look past them, but they're at almost every major intersection on U.S. 74 in Monroe. The signs say trucks with three axles or more should not travel in the far-left lane. A vehicle with three or more axles usually is a tractor-trailer, or some other large truck. During three recent trips across Monroe, I saw some truck drivers not obeying the signs.
That's significant because a large vehicle in the left lane slows smaller traffic, particularly at traffic lights. With high gas prices and limited fuel supplies, we all need to travel as efficiently as possible, not sit with our cars idling.
The signs in Monroe are designed to help us keep moving.
“U.S. 74 goes into three lanes at Dickerson Boulevard and extends to Hilltop (Restaurant). The signs were intended for trucks to travel in the center to far right lanes, with the left lanes open for cars,” said Capt. Bryan Gilliard of the Monroe Police Department's Special Services Division. “Many times truck drivers who violate the law are new. Most of the drivers around here obey the law.”
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The signs are based on a state law that was enacted years ago by the city of Monroe. Not all cities enact the law.
Gilliard said the police department gets complaints about trucks in the far-left lane. If you take time on any given day to observe traffic, you'll probably see a violator here and there.
Most of the larger trucks move along in the proper lanes. But one truck driver bucking the law can significantly slow traffic.
Gilliard said the police department tries to address complaints and be sensitive to the trucking industry. Trucking is a major business in this region. And U.S. 74 is one of the few main east-west routes across the Piedmont.
So there has to be a way to make Union County's busiest road work for vehicles of all sizes.
The trucks have to be allowed time to shift lanes after they see the signs, and car drivers must allow the trucks to turn left.
“We issue a citation if we see an offense, but we do use some discretion,” said Sgt. Benjie Mullis of the Monroe Police Department's Traffic Unit.
Mullis said sometimes officers will follow truck drivers for a period of time, giving them an opportunity to shift to the proper lane. If the trucks don't shift, they'll get a ticket.
“We'll give them ample time to do so,” Mullis said.
The penalty can be court costs of $121 and fines of $50-$150, depending on the judge's discretion.
It's obvious the lane restrictions are an effort to make the road efficient for all drivers. It's also obvious that one violator can impact hundreds of drivers. Gilliard said about 50,000 cars travel through Monroe each day on that stretch of road.
To claim a sports cliché, that puts the ball back in all our courts.
Pay attention to the signs, and be courteous to your fellow drivers.