Is it legal for construction trucks to block street lanes in NC? What the law says

Jeff Siner/

Traffic can get backed up around city streets, especially near construction sites and work zones.

Whether on a busy road for new development or in a neighborhood for a landscaping project, it’s common for drivers to navigate around larger vehicles or trucks that may be parked for construction projects. But are those vehicles allowed to block off traffic – even for work?

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol says only authorized emergency or maintenance personnel can block a lane when necessary. But ultimately, it depends on the circumstances.

State law prohibits anyone from parking or leaving a vehicle attended or unattended on any highway unless it’s unavoidable.

According to Joseph Hyde, an assistant professor of public law and government at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the law does not apply to garbage or recycling trucks or vehicles owned or operated by the state or any political subdivision while drivers are engaged in highway maintenance or construction work.

“We [law enforcement officers] do not make it a point to be critical of landscapers who are simply trying to do their contracted job,” Sgt. Marcus Bethea told The Charlotte Observer. “Postal vehicles block lanes to deliver packages, garbage trucks block lanes to collect residents’ trash, public parks, and amphitheaters block off roads or fields to accommodate extra large-scale parking, etc. There are plenty of contextual instances in which a lane being blocked need not arise to a level of requesting law enforcement intervention.”

How should motorists handle a blocked street?

Sometimes, it can be inconvenient or even dangerous for drivers to make way for parked work vehicles. Motorists are advised to use common sense and common courtesy in some of these scenarios.

“Our advice to residents or motorists is that if a vehicle of any kind ever creates a blockage or obstruction that is creating a clear-cut and substantial hazard, please feel free to notify law enforcement so the matter can be investigated further,” Bethea said. “Simultaneously, exercise reasonable patience in instances meant for the greater good of one’s neighborhood, community, or business.”