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Trucker 'drones on' with unique approach to teaching driving skills 7/15/2019 Friday Short Haul - Rhode Island tolls, human smuggling, contractor vs employee status 7/12/2019 ELD mandate deadline looming, many still not compliant 7/10/2019 New "boot" device being deployed to threaten Walmart overnighters 7/8/2019 Friday Short Haul - Prime Inc vs Amazon, mother fights HOS changes, truck drivers appreciation week 7/5/2019 Proper way to fly the American flag on your truck this Fourth of July 7/3/2019 Roundabouts are becoming popular; but are they best for trucks? 7/1/2019 Friday Short Haul - Skills test proposal, driver shortage, hemp sentencing, driverless trucks 6/28/2019 Experts warn of active wildland fire season 6/26/2019 More states signing on to enlist truckers against human trafficking 6/24/2019 Friday Short Haul - Shippers of Choice, insurance rates, wheel spikes, WIT award 6/21/2019 Freight numbers not holding up to 2018's highs 6/19/2019 Truck safety group urges purges of drug abuse drivers 6/17/2019 Friday Short Haul - Self-driving certificate, truck platooning, trade war stacking up cargo 6/14/2019 HOS waiver coming soon for fireworks haulers 6/12/2019 FMCSA takes a further look at detention time 6/10/2019 Friday Short Haul - Autonomous delivery, HOS rules changes, CDL retest 6/7/2019 Roadcheck 2019 in effect this week 6/5/2019 Hemp arrest prompts USDA memo 6/3/2019 Friday Short Haul - Waymo big rigs, Move over sting, Under-21 comments 5/31/2019 Severe weather prompts renewed emergency declaration 5/29/2019 Memorial Day holiday is prime time for cargo thefts 5/25/2019 Friday Short Haul - Hauling hemp, road rage fatality, new rules for autonomous vehicles 5/24/2019 Autonomous trucks on USPS test run 5/22/2019 Future era of cab-less trucks will be the end of HOS rules 5/20/2019 Friday Short Haul - FMCSA under-21 comments, Tesla autonomous car crash, 24,000 drivers sign contract with YRC 5/17/2019 Under-21 interstate drivers getting serious look by FMCSA 5/15/2019 Trucker Buddy program matches drivers with a classroom; everyone wins 5/13/2019 Friday Short Haul - Driver awarded $80 million, ODFL driver wins, loading dock black hole 5/10/2019 Storm breaks out from Rockies, slams into Midwest, South 5/8/2019 Capacity issues have shippers looking at private fleets 5/6/2019 Friday Short Haul - HOS rules, dark skies, Falcon drivers 5/3/2019 'Bug' permits now required for four eastern states 5/1/2019 Simulator use is catching on for schools, carriers 4/29/2019 Friday Short Haul - Thinking electric, Penske opens charging station, border crossing crisis, railroads taking trucking business 4/26/2019 ELDs might not be the panacea that was hoped for 4/24/2019 Truck drivers may soon see "phantoms" driving yard trucks 4/22/2019 Friday Short Haul - Nikola big rigs, WIT welcomes Peterbilt, Oregon crashes, Border crossings 4/19/2019 Carriers claim financial benefit of putting up drivers in hotels 4/17/2019 Uber's IPO application reveals interesting data about its freight brokerage business 4/15/2019 Friday Short Haul - CDL examiner arrested, tolls proposed for trucks, marijuana use on the rise 4/12/2019 Smart Load Board will get carriers the loads they need 4/10/2019 Huge lines and long wait times greet carriers at Mexico border 4/8/2019 Friday Short Haul - Marijuana, ATA campaign, personal conveyance rules 4/5/2019 Over-the-air downloads revolutionize parameter updates 4/3/2019 Don't get scammed by skimmers 4/1/2019 Friday Short Haul -- New Cascadias honored, motorist survey, U.S, Xpress awarded, rest stop parking 3/29/2019 Legislators address underride collisions, propose more underguards for trucks, trailers 3/27/2019 Motorists soon may encounter a different kind of truck convoy 3/25/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Women in Trucking, irate motorist, FMCSA eases HOS, Safe-Cap 3/22/2019 Recent survey shows cost of roadside repairs is rising 3/20/2019 FMCSA announces drug and alcohol clearinghouse website 3/18/2019 Friday Short Haul - Swift settlement, driver shortage myth, TCA Best Fleet award 3/15/2019 The hidden danger of looking but not seeing 3/13/2019 Accident scammers target trucks for financial payout 3/11/2019 3/9/2019 3/9/2019 Friday Short Haul - Snow on the roof, bypassing toll road, Waze under fire 3/8/2019 Retailers blame driver shortage for price increases 3/6/2019 Drivers' smartphones may be clue to road roughness 3/4/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Freight rates, HOS changes, tonnage reports 3/1/2019 New tax changes hit drivers hard 2/27/2019 FMCSA to implement under-21 interstate driver program for former military 2/25/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Connecticut tolls proposed, hydrogen fuel-cell trucks, cell phone use 2/22/2019 Congress committee looks at state of America's highways 2/20/2019 Number of cargo thefts is down; but dollar value about the same 2/18/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Crossing the border, CA sues FMCSA, Lobbying against larger trucks 2/15/2019 Detention - A problem still in search of a solution 2/13/2019 February Highway Angels honorees named 2/11/2019 Friday Short Haul -- C.R. England announces pay raises, eCommerce impact on trucking, TCA announces best fleets 2/8/2019 Is a guaranteed minimum pay the solution to the driver shortage? 2/6/2019 Long CDL testing wait times cost economy billions of dollars; not helping driver shortage 2/4/2019 Friday Short Haul -- Walmart hiring, Uber Freight App, Speed-limiter Law, America's Road Team 2/1/2019 Cranking -- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly 1/30/2019 California survives challenge to its low-carbon fuel standards 1/28/2019 Friday Short Haul - Highway robbery ... autonomous trucks ... new trailers 1/25/2019 LithiumHub enters jump-starter market with Jumpbooster JP30 1/23/2019 2019 Looks Good For The Transportation Industry 1/21/2019 Raymond Burt named TMC Trainer of the Month for February 2018 3/28/2018 TMC Transportation Announces Recipient of Prestigious Wheel Master Award 3/7/2018 TMC Transportation Named The Home Depot’s Flatbed Carrier of the Year For Fourth Straight Year 2/28/2018 Pay Raises & New Peterbilts for PAM Drivers 2/26/2018 New DOT Drug Testing Rules Effective Jan 1, 2018 1/11/2018 Amtrak Derailment: Trucks Haul 270,000 Pound Locomotive Engine During Cleanup 12/21/2017 Pepsi Places Largest Order Yet For Tesla Electric Trucks 12/12/2017 Kavin Hallett named Trainer of the Month for October 2017 12/8/2017 Over 100,000 Truck Drivers Likely Have Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea And More Testing Is On The Way 8/10/2017 Drivers Share Their Best Tips, Tricks, And Secrets For Life On The Road 7/18/2017 Drivers Are Losing Money By Taking The Wrong Approach 7/13/2017 Truckers and Guns: What Is and Is Not Legal 7/6/2017 Preparing To Go Solo For The First Time? Experienced Drivers Share Their Best Advice 6/29/2017 The Truck Stop Survival Guide: Advice From Experienced Drivers 6/15/2017 The Worst Cities For Traffic In The U.S. For 2017 6/8/2017 We Ask Drivers How They Would Make The Logbook Rules Better 5/30/2017 Self Driving Trucks Are Not Coming Anytime Soon 5/25/2017 11/30/-0001

Roundabouts are becoming popular; but are they best for trucks?

Dave Wickenhauser on Mon, July 1, 2019

Last Updated: Sun, June 30, 2019

A not-so-usual oval-shaped roundabout in the city of Carmel, Indiana

Roundabouts: They're either a boon to traffic efficiency or a truck driver's nightmare. Which is it?

One town that loves roundabouts is Carmel, Indiana; which is known not surprisingly as Roundabout City, USA, because the town has nearly 150 roundabouts for its population of 91,000 circle-driving citizens.

The town's obsession with roundabouts is due to the passion of Jim Brainard, the town's mayor since 1996, who became impressed with roundabouts during a graduate-school visit to England. By November of 2016 Carmel had built its 100th roundabout, with plans to top out with another 50 or so in the next few years.

Brainard says that most of the fears that motorists believe they'll have using roundabouts simply don't play out in actual use. He cites city statistics that show a 90 decrease in fatal accidents, an 80 percent reduction in serious-injury accidents, and 40 percent fewer accidents overall in intersections where roundabouts have replaced traffic signals.

He credits those numbers to the inherent features of roundabouts that force drivers to slow down in those intersections; thereby resulting in the accidents that do happen being at an angle rather than head-on, and non-injury or minor injury rather than fatalities.

He also touts the financial benefit of roundabouts by saying each intersection with a roundabout costs $250,000 less to build than a signalized one would, and they are cheaper to maintain by a factor of $5,000 less per year in electricity costs alone.

According to Brainard, traffic jams are reduced, meaning drivers spend less time and gas idling at stop lights; which Brainard claims amounts to about $4.9 million a year saved at the city's roundabouts.

In these positive articles about Carmel's plethora of roundabouts there is no anecdotal evidence of what truck drivers feel about driving in endless circles to get from somewhere to anywhere within the town. But truckers encountering the three roundabouts in the city of Worthington, Minnesota, are not so shy about expressing their opinions.

According to the town's local newspaper, The Globe, something about the town's roundabouts leads to truck-trailer tip-overs.

“They’re not big enough … they’re made for cars, not trucks” Jim Schutte, a semi driver from Rushmore, is quoted in The Globe. “When you go in, you’ve got the truck in the left lane and a trailer in the right, so if you get a car beside you, you have to watch out not to run them over.”

Schutte says he maneuvers through the Worthington roundabouts 10 times a week; which he handles carefully, slowly and successfully with his high-center-of-gravity feed trailer, often having to use the truck apron.

“You’re top heavy, so you hit that impact curb and it tips the truck,” Schutte said.

Top-heavy trucks are not the only ones susceptible to the roundabout's architecture. Trucks with low ground clearance have double the trouble because not only do they have to avoid scraping up onto the outside curbs, but the truck apron is unusable by them.

“My trailer is only four inches off the ground when it’s heavy, so then I have to avoid the apron,” Abels told The Globe.

And oversize trailers simply cannot drive through the town because of restrictions on using the roundabouts.

“That’s another issue,” Abels said. “Trucks with oversized trailers can make normal turns, but they can’t go through roundabouts, so how are we supposed to get into town if they build even more roundabouts?”

Able points out that the Worthington roundabouts aren't even the worst ones he encounters, citing some single-lane roundabouts elsewhere that are even tighter and harder to navigate.

This issue is highlighted by the personal experience of the author:

Back in my day of driving the NCA (Nevada, California, Arizona) fleet for Gordon Trucking my home terminal was located in Lathrop, California, near Stockton.

As anybody who has run in that area would understand, because of the numerous manufacturers and distribution centers in the nearby city of Tracy the town became my "second home."

As the gods of poor planning would have it, county engineers decided to yank out the perfectly fine signaled intersection coming off of the freeway and replace it with a roundabout.

There simply was no feasible detour that didn't involve driving miles out of the way, so we truck drivers had to weave our way around ongoing construction, narrowly avoiding accidents with confused motorists.

Even once the construction was finished, navigating that horrible roundabout was still a nightmare.

Granted, it was a two-lane roundabout; which theoretically should have made maneuvering easier. But there simply was no feasible way to make it across without fully hogging both lanes AND running up on the truck apron to boot.

I retired shortly after that, and left that roundabout far behind, but what's interesting is county public works finally recognized the problems with that disaster and have since "re-engineered" it. It remains to be seen if the changes were for the better.

There's an article from a year ago in the Tracy Press explaining the changes.

Apparently the intersection has experienced numerous accidents since completion – 98 since it opened in 2013 through mid-2018.

“When that roundabout was designed and constructed, there wasn’t the vast amount of warehousing and activity to the west,” deputy director of San Joaquin County Public Works Mike Selling told the Press.

He said a new Amazon fulfillment center and a build-up of the city's Northeast Industrial Area have resulted in increased truck and commuter traffic, and he attributed the accidents to "either a driver confusion kind of thing or folks trying to pass each other inside the roundabout.”

In other words, motorists just didn't like the fact that they had to yield to trucks that had to use both lanes (and then some) to navigate through the roundabout, and they would try to speed up to get past them.

Engineers determined that the solution was to pinch the two lanes into one lane half-way through the roundabout.

“By reducing it to one lane, then you don’t get anybody try to cut around,” Selling said in his Tracy Press interview, “and then for 11th Street traffic, when they look to their left they are only needing to be concerned with — anybody coming has to come in that one lane, so they essentially have the outside lane free to enter the roundabout."

Look at the photo, and you decide.


The Tracy roundabout after being re-engineered to pinch off one lane

The Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration has a report titled "Intersection Safety Roundabouts."

The report starts out by stating, "On projects that construct new or improved intersections, the modern roundabout should be examined as an alternative," and noted that modern roundabouts provide safety and operational benefits over other types of intersections.

The report goes into extreme detail with recommendations for road engineers to design roundabouts to be safe and efficient.

Of note concerning large trucks is that the report recognizes the difficulty of large vehicles in navigating roundabouts, and that designers should use a vehicle the size of a big-rig truck and trailer as the "design vehicle" in their calculations.

FHWA recommends accommodating large vehicles in their turning radius designs, but not to make the roundabout too wide so as to "maintain a relatively narrow circulatory roadway to adequately constrain passenger car speeds."

In other words, since the primary function of roundabouts is to make traversing intersections more efficient by slowing down traffic, it would be counter-productive to make them easier for large trucks to navigate, since that would encourage higher speeds.

Truck aprons, a circular ring around the center island, should be constructed to have a different texture than the roadway, and should be raised and sloped slightly in order to discourage passenger cars from using them as a driving lane.

And the misuse of truck aprons by motorists is a common complaint of truck drivers.

“That's my biggest pet peeve about roundabouts,” Abels said in the Worthington, Minnesota, Globe newspaper interview. “Passenger vehicles just don’t provide enough room. Some of them even drive up onto the truck apron.”

A number of states have enacted legislation hoping to alleviate the motorist/truck conflict in their roundabouts by giving trucks the right of way in roundabouts and making it illegal to attempt to pass a truck in a roundabout.

For example, the state of Wisconsin enacted a law in 2015 regarding driving around trucks in roundabouts, requiring motorists to yield the right-of-way to trucks and other large vehicles, including combinations of vehicles that are 40-feet long or longer.

The law is enforced by a citation costing the violator $175.30 and four demerit points for the first offence, and $213.10 and another four points for the second or further offences.

Indiana's law, enacted in 2017, has a penalty of $500 for not yielding to a truck in a roundabout. That bill was authored by Rep. Jerry Torr, who was approached by Carmel, Indiana, Mayor Jim Brainard.

Sources: FMWA, The Globe, Golden State Newspapers, Curbed

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