In news announced quietly Thursday afternoon, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) voted 7-4 to unwind the century-old statute known colloquially as Lane Neutrality.
Under Lane Neutrality, which has been the norm since the advent of high-speed roadways, all cars are allowed equal access to all lanes with very few exceptions (for example, restricting HOV/Carpool lanes or giving more freedom to emergency responders). Federal law clearly stated that all vehicles, regardless of the value of their cargo or importance of destination should be given equal access to roadways, provided they all follow the laws for those roadways.
However, under today announcement, roadways will be more heavily regulated and the Federal and State Governments will be permitted to allow preferential times, lanes, and speed limits to high-value cargo and passengers that are considered more important to the public interest. Details are still early, but so far include the following tiers:
- Tier 1 (Platinum): Semi tractors with greater than 50% load capacity will be allowed to use all lanes, at all times, with a speed limit of 100mph.
- Tier 2 (Gold): Semis under 50% capacity; and certain professions, including doctors, attorneys, and DMV clerks will be allowed the same unlimited access, provided they yield to semis.
- Tier 3 (Silver): All other employed people, but only while commuting to or from work (after yielding to Tiers 1 and 2)
- Tier 4 (Bronze): The unemployed, homeless, schoolbuses, college students, and other “drains on society” must yield to all of the above tiers and maintain speeds below 50mph.
The NHTSA is already working on licensing and enforcement plans. The public comment period on these plans is open until March 15th, 2018. Comments and complaints can be purchased for $10,000 each, not to exceed the best value, which is $100 million for 15,000 comments (a 33% discount!).