Put Trucks In Their Place: The Right Lane

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Anchorman's Comment
member avatar

Put trucks in their place: the right lane

The tyranny of truck traffic.

By Jack Baruth October 16, 2014 

I spent my childhood on the East Coast, making snow caves in the fallout of the blizzard, waiting with my mother in the gas lines, idling in the sweltering traffic of the Beltway. My father bought a new MG in Baltimore, and I sat with him as the clenching of his furious and frustrated hands made the MG oscillate in sympathy behind long columns of slow-moving tractor-trailers on the freeway. A billboard nearby admonished us: “55 Is A Law We Can Live With.”

36 years later I'm hammering my Accord along Interstate 75 and the cramped constraint of those childhood times might as well have happened to someone else. The speed limit south of Louisville is 70 miles per hour, and you will not have a conversation with an officer of the law unless you pointedly indicate your desire for one by doing 86 or above. Where the road is open and hilly I drop a gear or two for no reason and let the big six-cylinder sing me up the inclines. A dashboard display informs me that despise this foolishness I am averaging better than 31 miles per gallon. No better time than the present, to love the car, to love driving.

Then I see it. Both lanes clogged ahead on the next uphill. I brake and blip down to fourth as I join the conga lines. It's 8:00 PM and there shouldn't be any traffic on this road. Nonetheless the speedometer drops below 50 mph as the car ahead of me taps its brakes. For the next ten minutes I'm stuck, helpless, going no faster than my father in D.C., back in the double-nickel dark ages.

Finally the road flattens enough that I can see what's been happening. I'm in a pack of cars and at our head is a pair of semi-trucks having a little uphill and downhill race. They're both governed to 65 and not even making that kind of speed. As the truck in the left lane finally edges past on a downhill and moves over, my lane immediately jumps to 85 as everybody from the minivan mom to the Accord coupe dad floors the throttle in a release of pent-up helpless fury.

For a few glorious moments it looks like I'll zip by the 18-wheelers and make it to my destination on time, but then another semi takes advantage of a dubious-looking space in the left lane to swing out and start his passing maneuver on the truck ahead of him. Again we all jam on our brakes, again there's a ten-minute space where we fall to 45 mph or worse up the hills, then the truck race is over and we're free to go on our way. Welcome to American motoring, 2014 style.

I drive anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 miles a year, much of it on freeways and the bulk of it east of the Mississippi, and I can report with certainty that this dismal state of affairs is now the rule rather than the exception. On the way to an endurance race in New Jersey, I saw two-lane freeways blocked by dual trucks more often than they were not. Heading down I-77 to VIR, I saw trucks struggle to make 40 mph up the steep tollway hills, but by God if one of them thought he could do 41 then he was certain to pull out and make everybody behind him sit for five or ten minutes while he tried to force the pass.

The widespread introduction of so-called “SGLs”, or governors, in commercial trucks has created a situation where truck drivers face a measurable financial impact for dawdling behind even a slightly slower vehicle. If the truck ahead is governed two MPH slower and they stay behind it, they'll take home $10 or $15 a day less as a consequence. Over the course of a month, it's real money to them. So I don't blame them too much for inconveniencing or even endangering the rest of us.

No, the solution to this has to be legislative. Many European countries require commercial trucks to stay in the right lane, with a maximum speed of 50 mph or so. I can find nothing that suggests that they suffer much economic hardship as a result. When you consider the sleep deprivation and drug use to which truckers often fall victim, the argument for keeping them out of the way and restricting them to a lower speed becomes nearly unassailable.

With trucks restricted to the right lane, the rest of us would be able to travel at a safe and reasonable speed without the sudden brake-checks and dangerous traffic stacking that accompany these “truck races” on the Interstate. No longer would we all be subject to the whims of someone whose judgment is clouded by everything from financial considerations to “Stacker 2” caffeine pills. If Wal-Marts across the country have to wait another six hours or so for their latest deliveries of plastic junk from China, I think that falls under the category of acceptable losses. If that means resurrecting one of the malaise era's signature slogans, that's okay.

Trucks on the right: It's a law we can live with.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Woody's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

I have been thinking about making a post on this subject for several weeks now. Not about this article but the subject of passing.

Considering the article, while I think some of it is just insane there are several valid points. I have said for some time now that trucks governed below speed limits, and speed limits in areas lower for trucks than other vehicles causes more dangers than it eliminates. One of my gripes about the article though is the smoke screen of public safety as an excuse to render trucks to the right lane. Its about wanting us out of the way so they can speed and nothing else. If laws and the enforcement thereof were really about public safety then police would be pulling less people over for doing a little over the speed limit but instead would pull people over for tailgating. More accidents are caused and lives lost because of unsafe following distance than speed. Moving trucks to the right lane would not stop this dangerous habit. If your doing 75 in your personal vehicle passing a string of trucks you still have the idiot doing 85 that thinks its his right to get up on your bumper because your in the fast lane. Drives me absolutely nuts!!!

Now the point he touches on here and what I was considering posting about is trucks taking so long to pass each other. While in most cases 10 minutes is an exaggeration some times it is not. And it is unsafe and not necessary. The gist of the post I had considered making was to be willing to take your foot off the accelerator. Yea, I know, I will probably be bashed for saying that. But in the time that I have been trucking it seems to be a mindset that a trucker can never let up on the gas. This mentality keeps them in dangerous positions much longer than they need to be. If I have a truck move out to pass me and I see he is just hanging beside my trailer I back off about 2 mph. Just this little bit gets them around me in a decent amount of time and opens up the lane. Opening the lane is a considerate bonus but my main concern is that I am not traveling for miles side by side with another truck where one strong wind gust or laps in judgement can cause major problems. And if I see I am just a little faster than another truck I back off and stay behind to wait for a lengthy gap in traffic, pull off for a quick break, or just ride there until he pulls off.

Some worry that slowing down to let someone pass will cause a chain reaction and several will want to pass. So what? You would be surprised what going just a little slower for a few minutes can do for your spacing in traffic. If I have to let a few trucks pass me in order for me to have the space around my truck to be safe my life is worth it. You do not have to be going full throttle all the time to turn good miles. Good miles is more about staying out of the truck stops than going 2 mph faster. Daniel proved it when he posted screen shots of his weeks when his truck was only able to run 58.

I can't tell you how many times Iv'e been in a position where there is a large pack ahead of me and one behind all because I will back off and get into a better position. Granted when the pack behind finally catches me I may have to adjust again, but if that is what you have to do to put yourself in a safer position then that is what I will do.

I know this, if a law like the one suggested would actually pass I would probably quit trucking. Not because I do not want to have to follow the slower truck. But because I would have no way to get rid of the moron behind me that thinks it is ok to ride 10 ft off my bumper without pulling off every other exit.

We all end up in a position closer to the truck in front of us than we want to be from time to time. Usually do to him needing to get back over before the impatient 4 wheeler's start passing on his right. But it does't mean you have to stay there.

Your family loves you and depends on you. Do what you need to do to be as safe as you can while doing one of the most dangerous jobs in our country.

Woody

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

I completely agree with Woody - I can't stand when a truck in the right lane forces a truck in the left lane to ride alongside for 10 minutes instead of just backing out of it for a moment and letting him by. He got out there because he's running faster than you so let him go! Stop holding up 1/2 mile of traffic because you don't want to let off the gas a tiny bit for a tiny moment. As Woody said it's not only annoying but extremely dangerous to be riding side by side with another big rig while 4-wheelers are all crammed nose to tail behind you.

I also agree with Daniel that some of these companies are setting their speeds dangerously low. I'm fully aware of the fuel mileage gains you make by slowing down but there needs to be a reasonable limit to how slow trucks should be travelling.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Daniel B.'s Comment
member avatar

This is exactly why Prime needs to stop with this 54mph madness. It's such a hazard to everyone else on the road to go so slow.

I completely agree with this.

Heavy C's Comment
member avatar

Man as a driver of a truck that's governed to 68 and pulling light loads this would drive me batty! Especially in hilly areas. Now I know I may be part of the exception but i stay in the right lane unless I'm passing, but when i pass I'm my truck can make the pass with no problems the majority of the time. And every time going up a hill or mountain. Plus if I know the pass will take an extra minute or do then I'll make sure and wait for a good clearing of cars before starting. I know there's few drivers that do this but dam it would sure be frustrating. To me anyway.

Definitely some good points made though

HAMMERTIME's Comment
member avatar

Post is Biased! Don't wanna rant..

Mikki 's Comment
member avatar

Certainly there are pros and cons. But, seriously.... do cars really really need to go that fast?

Woody's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

I have been thinking about making a post on this subject for several weeks now. Not about this article but the subject of passing.

Considering the article, while I think some of it is just insane there are several valid points. I have said for some time now that trucks governed below speed limits, and speed limits in areas lower for trucks than other vehicles causes more dangers than it eliminates. One of my gripes about the article though is the smoke screen of public safety as an excuse to render trucks to the right lane. Its about wanting us out of the way so they can speed and nothing else. If laws and the enforcement thereof were really about public safety then police would be pulling less people over for doing a little over the speed limit but instead would pull people over for tailgating. More accidents are caused and lives lost because of unsafe following distance than speed. Moving trucks to the right lane would not stop this dangerous habit. If your doing 75 in your personal vehicle passing a string of trucks you still have the idiot doing 85 that thinks its his right to get up on your bumper because your in the fast lane. Drives me absolutely nuts!!!

Now the point he touches on here and what I was considering posting about is trucks taking so long to pass each other. While in most cases 10 minutes is an exaggeration some times it is not. And it is unsafe and not necessary. The gist of the post I had considered making was to be willing to take your foot off the accelerator. Yea, I know, I will probably be bashed for saying that. But in the time that I have been trucking it seems to be a mindset that a trucker can never let up on the gas. This mentality keeps them in dangerous positions much longer than they need to be. If I have a truck move out to pass me and I see he is just hanging beside my trailer I back off about 2 mph. Just this little bit gets them around me in a decent amount of time and opens up the lane. Opening the lane is a considerate bonus but my main concern is that I am not traveling for miles side by side with another truck where one strong wind gust or laps in judgement can cause major problems. And if I see I am just a little faster than another truck I back off and stay behind to wait for a lengthy gap in traffic, pull off for a quick break, or just ride there until he pulls off.

Some worry that slowing down to let someone pass will cause a chain reaction and several will want to pass. So what? You would be surprised what going just a little slower for a few minutes can do for your spacing in traffic. If I have to let a few trucks pass me in order for me to have the space around my truck to be safe my life is worth it. You do not have to be going full throttle all the time to turn good miles. Good miles is more about staying out of the truck stops than going 2 mph faster. Daniel proved it when he posted screen shots of his weeks when his truck was only able to run 58.

I can't tell you how many times Iv'e been in a position where there is a large pack ahead of me and one behind all because I will back off and get into a better position. Granted when the pack behind finally catches me I may have to adjust again, but if that is what you have to do to put yourself in a safer position then that is what I will do.

I know this, if a law like the one suggested would actually pass I would probably quit trucking. Not because I do not want to have to follow the slower truck. But because I would have no way to get rid of the moron behind me that thinks it is ok to ride 10 ft off my bumper without pulling off every other exit.

We all end up in a position closer to the truck in front of us than we want to be from time to time. Usually do to him needing to get back over before the impatient 4 wheeler's start passing on his right. But it does't mean you have to stay there.

Your family loves you and depends on you. Do what you need to do to be as safe as you can while doing one of the most dangerous jobs in our country.

Woody

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Attila's Comment
member avatar

Yes! Just what we need, more laws against truckers and make them poorer to boot! Sign me up. Pay by mile should be looked at, especially concerning safty.

Mikki 's Comment
member avatar

Super Excellent points Woody!!!!smile.gif I'm with that all the way!!

Phil C.'s Comment
member avatar

The solution is obviously to build more lanes! Truckers get the right 2 and cars get the left 2!

HAMMERTIME's Comment
member avatar

How about Trucks get the Left 2 Lanes because we are Thru Traffic and don't switch lanes as often and get on and off and Cars get the right two lanes. There are Cities that do it that way and it works quite well.

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