Q: I often see trucks parked in the center turn lane and unloading cargo. I also see truck trailers parked in the center turn lane in rural areas after unloading heavy equipment. What are the rules? Can just anyone park in a center turn lane and conduct business or unload items?
A: The law is clear: “Every vehicle stopped or parked upon a two-way roadway shall be so stopped or parked with the right-hand wheels parallel to and within 12 inches of the right-hand curb or as close as practicable to the right edge of the right-hand shoulder.”
If you’re parked more than a foot away from the curb, you’ve violated the law.
The trickier question is, “What should we do about it?” It’s not just the big semis. I live on a street that has angle parking down both sides. Any delivery vehicle bigger than the mail carrier truck stops in the road to deliver packages. It’s a violation of traffic law, but there isn’t a good alternative either.
I’ve never been a commercial driver, but I once drove from San Diego almost to Canada in the biggest U-Haul available while towing a car, and I gained a new level of respect for commercial drivers. When it came time for gas or food, I discovered that many of the options for car drivers don’t exist when you’re as big as, well, a truck. You have to think beyond where you’re going to park to include how you’re going to get out of where you parked.
Do you know what some truck drivers call the center turn lane? The bonus lane. I learned that on a truck driving forum where a new driver asked about parking in the center turn lane. The collective opinion of the over 50 drivers who responded could be summarized as, “Yep, it’s illegal. But where else are you going to park?”
I also sought an opinion from law enforcement. He kind of said, “Yep, it’s illegal, but where else are they going to park?” He pointed out that sometimes that center lane is the safest option, even if it isn’t the legal one.
If you were hoping to see some enforcement action, I think you’re going to be disappointed. I’m not suggesting that every truck that parks in the center turn lane had no other choice, but why would a driver park in the middle of the road if they had a better option?
It’s not legal, but it’s tolerated because it’s necessary. If I parked my car in the center turn lane and ran into the grocery store, I predict that I’d face some legal consequences. But why would I when there’s a parking lot I can easily access? Commercial drivers at times must choose the best of several not-so-great options, and as long as our transportation infrastructure remains as it is, I don’t see that changing. If we want our stuff delivered, sometimes it’ll involve a truck in the middle of the road.
Doug Dahl writes a weekly column for this newspaper. He is with the state Traffic Safety Commission.