By on August 4, 2011

As a telecommuter, I don’t drive as much as many Americans do, but I’ve come to the conclusion that lane discipline in this country (or at least in my part of it) is a huge problem. Traffic is frustrating in all circumstances, but unnecessary congestion caused by drivers who act without any apparent awareness of traffic around them is by far the most frustrating. And, in many cases, unnecessary congestion is caused by light-duty vehicles being held up by trucks, or slow-moving traffic clogging the left lane because of trucks passing in the middle lane.

Jalopnik takes on the issue of trucks in traffic with a piece entitled What you don’t know about the truck driver you just flipped off, which argues that truckers are overworked, overregulated and under financial pressure to deliver quickly. And though I sympathize with the plight of long-haul truckers, I don’t believe they should be allowed to leave the right lane.

The problems that the Jalopnik piece points out are issues endemic to a highly competitive industry: freight companies put pressure on their drivers to deliver on-time, even if they are held up in loading and limited to 68MPH. The argument then, is that because freight companies put impossible conditions on their drivers, the rest of traffic should feel honored to let the poor driver hold everyone else up while he passes a truck going two or three miles per hour slower than him. It’s a compelling argument if you look at it emotionally, but at the end of the day, doesn’t that sympathy just validate the abusive practices of the freight companies?

There’s a better way: in European countries, where trucks are strictly limited to the right lane, freeway traffic moves admirably (although some of that is due to the god-like lane discipline exercised by all drivers). Even in California, where the California Vehicle Code prevents trucks from leaving the right lane unless there are at least four lanes of traffic, the difference in interstate traffic caused by slowly passing trucks (compared to, say, Oregon) is distinctly noticeable. And if trucks are strictly forbidden from passing, the freight companies simply can not put unrealistic expectations on their drivers. And since, as the Jalopnik piece points out, experienced drivers are leaving the business at alarming rates, it’s clear that the industry needs to put less pressure on its employees anyway.

There are two ways to do this: one, require that all trucks stay in the right lane unless there are at least four lanes. Another: ban speed regulators that keep trucks under (say) 70 MPH, preventing trucks from needing to pass slower trucks as often. With both of these measures, freight firms wouldn’t be able to put unrealistic pressure on their drivers, trucks would no longer have to pass each other for an extra one or two MPH advantage, and the rest of traffic wouldn’t feel the need to flip off their hard-working fellow citizens. It sounds win-win to me… but what say you?

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66 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Should Trucks Be Limited To The Right Lane?...”


  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    As a frequent traveller I have to say the difference between CA and other states is marked. Even in a state like TX where the trucks are allowed to drive considerably faster than CA (where they are theoretically limited to 55) trucks create traffic SNAFUs of record proportions on I-10. As far as the limiter goes, I think the national truck speed limit should be 55 and all trucks should be fitted with limiters rendering them incapable of travelling faster. The reason? Safety. As we have seen in numerous crash tests, a collision with a large truck is deadly, the faster they are going the worse this is. Also, if greenies car about fuel economy it is far more efficient for these big trucks to trundle along at 55 than 75.

    • 0 avatar

      It seems trucks are allowed to pass on two or three-lane highways in CA…. http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21655.htm

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      I agree to all of this…limit the speed of trucks to 55; and institute and enforce lane discipline. And I say this as a former long-haul trucker.

      The reason for the higher speeds, as well as the poorer-than-in-the-past driver performance, is the horrific poor pay in the industry, as well as the microregulation of drivers and Draconian punishment for DOT violations. What drivers are trying to do, is make a million dollars by covering ten million miles a year…they defend the higher axle loads and higher speeds because they NEED those speeds to bring their earnings up to just-poor instead of destitute-poor.

      All this sets up several dynamics: competent people have gotten OUT of the field, replaced by the glazed-eyes, stump-stupid Deliverance-County types. Not ALL of them, but many more than in the past. So, with hours limited, and checked by time-stamped receipts and satellite tracking, they need to go like hell to make the most of the Kafkaesque Hours-of-Service requirements. So, they run up against their governors, or as fast as their setups allow…and to gain a mile, they’ll get in the passing lane at 65 to pass another truck governed to 62.

      The stupid among them need be cleared out. That can only happen with a rationalizing of regulations and punishments; higher wages…make the job attractive again. Allow the drivers more autonomy, in terms of HOW they work within their allowed hours. Bring the wages up, so they’re not freaking over a lost 15 minutes which can mean the difference between making a tight schedule (tight to make the most they can) and not, and losing a day’s wages or having a load taken from them by the dispatcher.

      If the job were to be such that again, drivers have a little down time to eat at a table; to sleep in a relaxed manner; to not be toe-tapping frantic over every second; so that they don’t fear scale-houses the way you fear a carjacking…the problem would be solved.

      Not until.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I’d have to take a different approach to this. This question is a far more complicated than a “simple” solution such as the one proposed in the headline.

        What we need is an overhaul of our surface transportation system. We rely far too heavily on truck traffic to deliver the things we want. Over the long run, I don’t believe this is sustainable.

        However, the rail system is built out about as far as it will get, and they are running to beyond capacity to meet their customer’s needs. IIRC, it would be so prohibitively expensive to purchase the rights of way in some areas that it apparently is not worth the effort to do so.

        I believe what will happen will be a new paradigm, like airline traffic was to transoceanic ship travel, or interstate trucking was to the railroads. I don’t know what it will be, whether we return to a much more distributed model of production or finally find a way to teleport product from one place to another. Maybe the information economy will make us less reliant on certain kinds of products and we just won’t need to ship them anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d want to see the safety statistics before I’d limit the trucks to 55; nonetheless, I expect the statistics would support that limit, or one that is comparable.

      But between Boston, NYC, and Wash. DC, highways where I do a lot of driving, my best judgment is that the trucks are not responsible for slowing car traffic. Cars are the ones holding up the traffic in the left lanes. And cars are the ones who refuse to use the right lane. (Often one can maintain the highest speeds in the right lane.)

      The trucks, for their part, tend to stay to the right. Between Boston and DC, most of the highways are 3-4 lanes in each direction, and the trucks do tend to spend most of the time in the right lane, almost never driving beyond the second lane. On the southern portion of the New Jersey Turnpike, which is two lanes in each direction, the trucks spend very little time in the passing lane. Bottom line: on these roads the truckers do not get in the way.

      I do agree with Pch, below, that it would be good if a lot of the truck cargo could be shifted to trains. I’m sure that would save on fuel, fatalities, and the highways, which take a beating from the trucks. But I’ll let others debate how practical that would be. I have no idea, except that I do know that no train tracks go through Port Newark, the major international port that I am familiar with.

    • 0 avatar
      modelt1918

      So…how much more do you want to pay for freight? Or pay for product a the store? Slow the trucker down and it takes that much longer to get freight to the warehouse or store. That is why Californians pay more for gas, groceries and clothes.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        “So…how much more do you want to pay for freight?”

        How about building things closer to their point of consumption? Once upon a time, factories were scattered all over the US and the average transport distance between point of production and point of consumption was less than half of what it is today.

        Cheap shipping and freight has given us mega factories (often in China) pumping out a flood of good which then have to distributed thousands of miles before finding a customer. Said customer then moves those good to the closet, attic, basement, landfill or Goodwill within a few months.

        If freight costs were much, much higher then the economics would push back towards smaller, more evenly distributed production points with shorter distances to the customer.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    On my interstate ramblings I’ve seen trucks exhibit better lane discipline than your average vacationers with the cruise control set to 76 inching along in the left lane. If a truck’s in the left lane they’re passing someone and doing it as best the can, so I can be patient compared to the average lallygagger in a much more responsive (compared to a truck, anyway) vehicle who doesn’t care about holding up faster traffic. Of course once you get into higher populated areas all rules are off, but that’s the case for everyone on the road.

    If anything the second option listed is better; make sure trucks can go the speed limit and (as needed) faster. Illinois has a two-tier system limiting trucks to 55 while everyone else has a slightly less galling 65 mph limit. Farther west (and east, for that matter) things are much nicer.

    • 0 avatar
      tkewley

      Agreed. In my experience, commercial truckers are generally focused drivers – aware of the traffic around them, and efficient about moving through it. Certainly they are FAR better than the average motorists, to whom “lane discipline” or “watching one’s mirrors” appear to be foreign concepts.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Problem with trucks is their stopping distance which is just so much larger than cars. That is why they need a speed limiter

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! On two-lane interstates, right lane ONLY. On three-lanes: right only during rush hours, under no circumstances, never, ever in the left lane, EVER! In other words, truckers, get the blazes off the road entirely (just kidding about that). Ship via rail.

    Oh, and lest I forget, the same goes for stupid, ugly conversion vans, too. They’re ugly, slow and always rusted out.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      Zackman…go here http://www.vannin.com/ and educate yourself or at least keep your moronic comments to yourself.

      And, yes, I DO drive a conversion van, out of necessity as a wheelchair user, it is NOT rusty and I DO NOT block traffic in any lane.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    the California Vehicle Code prevents trucks from leaving the right lane unless there are at least four lanes of traffic

    It doesn’t quite say that. Trucks are restricted to the right-hand lane and to the lane immediately to the left of the right-hand lane. Passing is allowed. http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/trucks/ops-guide/truck-lane-use.htm

    This is a sensible rule. Trucks should generally travel at a lower rate of speed than cars, given their longer braking distances and the high likelihood that a truck accident will cause fatalities. And it’s a good idea to keep trucks and cars as far away from each other as possible.

    In the big picture, what we should be doing is moving as many long-haul commercial goods by train as possible, and we should be electrifying the rail system. More of these trailers should be traveling on flatbeds to locations closer to their final destinations. Our roads would last longer, our air would be a bit cleaner, we’d use a bit less energy, and we’d save a few more lives.

    • 0 avatar
      Brad2971

      I don’t know if you’ve ever driven down the Cajon Pass on I-15, or on I-8 through AZ, but you’ll see plenty of containers on the rail lines next to those freeways. Heck, you’ll even see JB Hunt put its trailers on the rails for offloading to a site closer to the final destination for the cargo.

      As to the Jalopnik article, let’s just say the comments to it were…rather instructive. And by “instructive,” I mean completely unempathetic toward their fellow man.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        In the US, as of 2009, about six tons of freight were shipped by truck for every ton that were shipped by rail. http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/nat_freight_stats/docs/10factsfigures/table2_1.htm

        Shipping logistics is not a subject area that I know much about, but my hunch is that a coordinated effort could be made to shift more of this by rail if we chose to. But it would take the sort of top-level planning that tends to cause some people to scream, and I’m sure that trucking companies wouldn’t be happy about it.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        It’s harder than it looks. The 6-1 number I think includes freight shipped from railheads to destinations without rail access. I am in the business and there are no easy solutions if you keep what we have now. Keep in mind that railways areclose to capacity now too and that rail construction is almost as expensive as freeway building. Railway coompanies have been raising rates too.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Shipment comparisons in ton-miles would be enlightening. If you can get it to a railhead, rail shipment is about 1/3rd the cost of truck shipment (I’m still smarting over the cost of a recent LTL shipment). But there usually is no way to make a final delivery by rail outside industrial complexes while most everyone can get a final delivery by road. I’m still surprised by the disparity in tons carried.

        My grandfather ordered his first car, a Model T, from the factory and it was shipped to the Southern Railroad’s Charlotte yards. He was out of town on business and my grandmother had the thing uncrated, read the manual and then drove it home. License? License plates for the car? No to both.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      It is a good idea. I suspect if you taxed long haul trucking companies at a rate that paid for road wear all those heavy trucks caused, most cargo would be in short order moving by rail. This would of course require leadership, etc, something that doesn’t exist in the political structure right now.

      Fun fact, Mr. Psych: 1/4 of all rail freight in the USA is used for hauling coal to power plants.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I suspect if you taxed long haul trucking companies at a rate that paid for road wear all those heavy trucks caused, most cargo would be in short order moving by rail.

        Pretty much. The heavy weight of trucks is what does much of the damage to the road system (although the thinness of our roads doesn’t help — we are pennywise and pound-foolish when it comes to this stuff.) The rest of us are effectively subsidizing the trucking industry.

        1/4 of all rail freight in the USA is used for hauling coal to power plants.

        Honestly, I had no idea. It would be sort of interesting to see if there are considerable differences between what gets shipped by rail vs. truck.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Another fun fact Neb, the prices you pay for everything especially food would skyrocket if you increased taxes on transportation. Again, you think taxes are too low, send a check to the Treasury, they’ll gladly take. Do your part before you ask others to pay more.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        “Honestly, I had no idea. It would be sort of interesting to see if there are considerable differences between what gets shipped by rail vs. truck.”

        There are MAJOR differences…and I say that as someone who’s worked both in trucking and railroading. Railroads favor bulk shipments…coal; grain; iron ore. And a LOT of…GARBAGE. Refuse.

        Yes, and those container trains and trailer-on-flatcar shipments? A lot of that is international shippers using American railroads as a “land bridge” – the stuff gets put on rails in New Jersey and goes back on boats in Long Beach.

        Railroads today are horrifically inflexible. They don’t want to be bothered with time-sensitive shipments; stuff that has to be at this point at that time without fail. No…if coal doesn’t get where it’s going, another coal shipment, matching grade and quantity, can be diverted to the end-user.

        A UPS trailer or a carload of automobiles, cannot be so diverted. Back about twelve years ago, one American railroad lost five auto-racks which accidentally got sent into Canada…and disappeared. Never heard how that ended up; but the railroad company was offering CASH REWARDS for any employee who could report those cars’ location.

        It’s typical of the mega-railroads of today. They’re not innovative or responsive. Shipper-friendly smaller railroads (Conrail and Wisconsin Central) have been bought up or bought out.

        So, for consumer products being delivered in the continental US…trucks today are the only real option. Putting truck trailers on rails is sometimes an option and saves money; but it’s not always logistaically feasible.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Neb, do you have any idea what trucks pay in taxes? Of course not. Trucks not only pay many thousands of dollars in fuel taxes, but IFTA taxes annually, as well Federal Excise Taxes on Trucks and truck parts.

        As a bonus, these taxes are being siphoned off to pay for trains instead of road repair, expansion, or improvement!

      • 0 avatar
        Neb

        Another fun fact Neb, the prices you pay for everything especially food would skyrocket if you increased taxes on transportation.

        You are paying those taxes right now; I said it’d be a good idea to make trucking companies pay their fair share of the real costs, instead of having all drivers subsidize their businesses. I thought free market types loved stuff like this…

        It’s typical of the mega-railroads of today. They’re not innovative or responsive. Shipper-friendly smaller railroads (Conrail and Wisconsin Central) have been bought up or bought out.

        You raise some good points. It sounds like US rail companies don’t invest in new rail lines and are content to compete in the bulk market. If you replaced long haul trucking with rail, the nature of that game can change. You mentioned UPS; once upon a time it ran all of it’s package deliveries through rail. Hell, I remember reading about how back in the day the USPS had mail trains that were more efficient then what they do today, since while they were shipping mail they also were sorting it.

      • 0 avatar
        modelt1918

        Yeah move it by rail! It takes 2 days for a railroad to get a “consist” together to run it out of town. If you are running say..L.A. to N.Y., it takes another 3 days to get it there and then 2 days to get it to the warehouse and unloaded. It takes 2 days to get that trailer from L.A. to N.Y. via truck…maybe 2 1/2. The shelves would be empty all of the time and then you idiots would mad as hell about that. Americans are clearly ignorant on what is really going on.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Neb, how do you plan on converting everything to rail? You going to snap your fingers and railway transport will be run to every business and every house? Are you going to wish for trains to be able to do LTL shipping to multiple destinations? Are you planning on working late one night to build all the railcars and now track that would be needed?

        As far as taxes go, you obviously don’t know anything about the business. Trucking is heavily taxed, Toad’s post is absolutely right. Just as an example, fuel taxes, a truck will get roughly 5.5-6 mpg. Compare the taxes he pays to your taxes on a 30 mpg car. They are somewhat higher total for the truck. It’s not unusual for a trucker to spend nearly a dollar per mile for fuel. He pays a lot in taxes.

  • avatar
    Busted Knuckle

    I agree wholeheartedly. I often travel I-10 through Arizona, which is hands-down the worst as far as lane control goes. I have literally been behind caravans of trucks passing trucks for over 20 minutes. Even worse, once you get to Phoenix you discover there is absolutely no lane control at all within the city, and trucks are scattered willy-nilly across 4-5 lanes of traffic, disrupting everything in their path. It is ridiculous.

  • avatar
    pete

    Living in CA I don’t find big trucks the biggest problem. Drivers are fairly well disciplined and only leave the right lane to pass. The real culprits are pickup truck drivers and white van “men” who seem to have no idea about how traffic flows or how braking distance is calculated at speed.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Excellent topic Edward. And some good solutions offered. I would ask, as a Californian, why the major north-south freeways (101, I5, 99) of the most populous American state have only 2 lanes for their rural sections? Since adding a third lane would require that some bridges and overpasses be widened and thus prohibitively expensive, I would suggest adding the extra lanes between the bridges and overpasses. At least it would help break up the automobile “bunching” that results from a truck-caused slowdown. All it takes is one slow car driver leading the resultant parade to slow us down more than the trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The short answer is that lanes are expensive. Adding a lane mile on each side of an interstate costs several million dollars, with costs varying depending upon terrain and whatever other changes might be required. Do this to a 100 mile stretch of roadway, and you’re looking at something around half a billion dollars.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I just read the Jalopnik article. While its a sad story, I don’t think truck drivers should be entitled to anything special when on the road. True, we are dependent on trucking to move products from A to B. We also depend on salesmen to drum up new business for the product, engineers to develop it, production workers to make it, etc etc, each one with their own unique set of pressures and challenges, personal and professional.

    Trucks should be in the right lane only, unless there are more than 3 lanes.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Trucks should be prohibited from entering the leftmost lane if you have three or more lanes (not counting HOV). But if you’ve only got two lanes, hey, they need to pass people sometimes too.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Has anyone considered asking, you know, truckers and trucking companies what to do? Or, are we all experts because we share the roads with them?

    How much does it cost when traffic delays occur?
    Has their been much difference between right lane only locations and other locations?
    What are the fuel costs?
    What impact would more drivers taking longer load trips have?
    Are smaller trucks better?

    Hey, you know what? There are a lot of experts in this field that live in the real world out there. They actually depend upon delivering products on time, within budgets, and have to be competitive at the same time. You want to mess up all that expertise because you think you know more than they do? Why the hell should they listen to us? Because we’re bitching about this?

    There are reasons things are being done the way they are being done right now. There is no one with a monopoly of wisdom here. You need to go somewhere are there is someone else sharing the road with you that is the way? Tough. Do what we teach pre-schoolers to do – share.

    These are public roadways paid by everyone, including businesses. No one should be getting special royal lane treatment because of the vehicle they are driving. It shouldn’t matter if the vehicle is an Osmond-load in a minivan, or a Prius with a professor in it – share the damn road as equals, not based on vehicle. The only exception would be for emergency vehicles, but you know that, right?

    This ain’t Europe. You can drive across those damn countries in mere hours, if less. Thinking we can import any ideas regarding traffic from there to here is illogical. Europeans pay more for everything, and their economy sucks rotten eggs worse than ours, and that says a lot. Yeah – the trucks in Germany form right lane lines from Emden to Berlin, but we’re talking a four hour drive that can be made at night, in the right lane. They do not have the truck traffic we do. They don’t even have the damn traffic we do. Comparing them to us in this case is nonsense.

    There has been too many instances of making productive citizens into criminals based on an ever increasing belief in governmental regulations. Nothing you guys can come up with is going to make this problem’s cost any lower than it already is. You tamper with this and you will pay more for the same crap, and give courts a field day ticketing productive schmoes trying to get your crap to you, so you don’t have to do it yourself. How about some appreciation?

    • 0 avatar
      ixim

      + a zillion.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      “Has anyone considered asking, you know, truckers and trucking companies what to do? Or, are we all experts because we share the roads with them?

      How much does it cost when traffic delays occur?
      Has their been much difference between right lane only locations and other locations?
      What are the fuel costs?
      What impact would more drivers taking longer load trips have?
      Are smaller trucks better?”

      What trucking COMPANIES will tell you, and what their (sentient) DRIVERS will tell you, are two different things.

      For safety reasons, and to curry favor with the government, the companies favor slower speeds. That makes sense, until you do the math and figure out what those slower speeds cost a driver.

      Fuel savings are significant. You can add about 1.5 mpg to a truck by slowing it down to 55. This depends to some extent on the engine and gearing; but there are savings.

      Smaller trucks do not save. A fully-loaded tractor-trailer will deliver, at optimum, about six miles per gallon. Unloaded, it will deliver about 7.5 to eight. One could assume that a smaller trailer would not add beyond that.

      I don’t have figures on doubles and triples; but I suspect the fuel-use-per-ton-freight makes them attractive that way.

      Longer load trips would have no effect. Any shipment has a start, in traffic, a road period, and a delivery period, again in traffic with stoplights. In any event it’s not up to the trucker or trucking company who gets what. If the buyer wants something from Southern California shipped to Florida, and the shipper contracts the trucking company to deliver it…there it is. That’s the cost.

      No way to cut that out except to tell the shipper you won’t take it. In which case he’ll find another carrier.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Wow…an island of intelligence in a sea of stupid.

      As someone who has been in the industry for a couple decades, has driven trucks and currently owns them, I know a little bit about the issue at hand.

      First, trucks and cars are supposed to follow the same basic rules, and that includes not blocking the passing lane. If you block it for a certain amount of time your should be ticketed. People texting while driving and the elderly seem to block the passing lane far more often than trucks do.

      Second, different speed limits for different vehicle types kill people, period. Every study done on speed differentials show that they cause accidents as vehicles try to pass the slower vehicles of any type. Differential speed limits are passed by legislators over the objections of traffic engineers out of fear and/or ignorance. Every vehicle going the same speed is the safest way to implement speed limits.

      Third, the road system was not set up just so you can go shopping or have a faster commute. Our road system was set up to facilitate commerce, which it has done nicely. While those still living in their moms basement may think the highways exist for them to race their Civics, roads actually serve many functions including the moving of freight.

      Fourth, for better or worse truck drivers get paid what the market will bear, just like most of us. It is the same labor pool and skill set that draws factory workers and other semi-skilled labor, and the wages reflect that. It can be a good job for somebody with a high school education that does not want to work in a factory, and generally pays better. FYI: The best truck drivers would have been cowboys 150 years ago.

      Fifth, take a breath and wait for the truck to pass and get back into the right lane. Seriously. I also hate getting held up in the left lane but it has not killed me yet. If you watch your GPS unit it may show the whole ordeal added, what, a minute to your trip? Chill out.

      America has been on a craze to regulate everything that could annoy anyone, and then we wonder why business is not expanding and our economy seems to be slipping back into recession. A few more ill-informed and poorly considered ideas like this don’t help.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        different speed limits for different vehicle types kill people, period.

        There’s no conclusive evidence, either way, on the subject of differential speed limits.

        But more to the point, speed limits have minimal effect on the speeds that drivers choose for themselves, while 85th percentile speeds for trucks on interstate highways are usually lower than are the 85th percentile speeds for cars on the same sections of highway.

        Drivers tend to drive at speeds at which they are comfortable. The speed differential between cars and trucks is perfectly natural, as drivers of trucks choose to drive more slowly than do car drivers. And it makes perfect sense that they do, as truck drivers are well aware that their vehicles are more difficult to stop and maneuver.

        Speed limits do not serve as useful behavior modification tools. If used properly, they should usually be set at somewhere around the 85th-90th percentile speed, so that drivers who are unfamiliar with the road are notified as to what to expect of the usual flow of traffic. The speed differential cannot be eliminated with a sign; drivers vote with their right feet, and their right feet feel differently when they are controlling a semi.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        Different speeds for different vehicles don’t automatically kill people. They do set up situations which drivers need to deal with, but so does rain or ice on the roadway.

        What DOES kill people, are trucks hitting them.

        What speed DOES do, is add time to stopping distance. With high-performance ABS brakes on a new car, the stopping distance may well still be within safe limits even at 80. With 80,000 pounds of TRUCK?

        A rule of thumb is, it takes four times the distance to stop when the speed is doubled. A truck going 75 mph is going to need quadruple the distance to stop as one going 38 miles per hour. And almost twice as much distance as one going 55.

        There are many, many reasons to mandate a slower speed for trucks. The only one AGAINST it is, driver’s earnings.

        …What the market will bear? True…but the market is skewed. Turnover is phenomenal in the trucking business…many, many people get into it, look around, eat their 30th consecutive Subway sandwich instead of a real meal, see their tiny paycheck, and PARK IT. Walk off.

        Major companies have whole squads of drivers who do nothing but “dog-catch” – go and retrieve trucks disgruntled drivers have abandoned.

        With the newish regulations on emissions, satellite-tracking, equipment standards…companies are making ends meet by shaving pay to the bare minimum. They’re now counting on high unemployment numbers to provide a talent pool.

        Except…they don’t tell the drivers they’re entering into bondage. Lousy food, interrupted, sporadic rest, no time at home, no pay for loading periods…low wages.

        They quit. How do I know this? I was a former driver of twenty years ago, now out of work…I always thought, “if nothing else, I can always go back to driving truck.”

        Now I know better. I’d live better and more comfortably by sticking up liquor stores…and getting busted for it. PRISON is a hell of a lot more comfortable…even allowing for entertaining Bubba.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        JustPassinThru, sorry your experience in the business was lousy. However, most of the guys that work with me have been with me for years, and most of the other small to mid-size fleet owners I know have the same experience. The pay and working conditions are better than most high school grads see. Our biggest barrier to entry is getting people to pass federally mandated drug tests and no felony convictions (amazing how many people that washes out).

        The big national trucking companies do have lots of turnover because they are crummy places to work, but everybody in the business knows that. They are the fast food employers of the trucking industry; low pay and not great working conditions, but they take almost anybody and are a starting point for a lot of people to get to a better job.

        If truck speeds drop, fine, and pay (per mile) will probably go up because the effective hourly rate paid will need to be commensurate with similar jobs. In turn, freight rates will go up, and then consumer prices will follow. If the public at large does not see higher wages, the effective standard of living will fall (conversely, if all wages go up we have inflation). Basic economics.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        “If truck speeds drop, fine, and pay (per mile) will probably go up because the effective hourly rate paid will need to be commensurate with similar jobs. In turn, freight rates will go up, and then consumer prices will follow. If the public at large does not see higher wages, the effective standard of living will fall (conversely, if all wages go up we have inflation). Basic economics.”

        True enough. But it’s FALSE economics to expect a low-wage earner to make his meager pay by running his rig recklessly enough, fast enough, with as few stops as possible…to make his pittance.

        If the price of shipping initially goes up a fraction, it’s balanced, first by decreased other costs, like insurance (lower accident rates) and operating costs (huge training overhead to replace high turnover). Given the HUGE amounts of money spent on fuel, the small dollars drivers’ additional salary would represent, would be a drop in the bucket.

        I don’t know where you work or what your operation is. But my re-sizing of the industry this year, suggested to me that some, only some, of my grief was from Company Policy. The new Hours-of-Service laws are a major pain in the drain to comply with, often mandating sleep at inoppurtune times – such as midday, after loading all night.

        I considered going in as an Independent; but with the coming requirements of satellite tracking and electronic logbooks, I see it as just replacing an overbearing dispatcher with an equally-overbearing DOT.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    A concern I have with the idea of limiting truck traffic to the right lane only is in urban / suburban freeway situations, where there are many interchanges, and you could end up with situations of a wall of trucks interfering significantly with the operation of those interchanges.

    I think overall people need to be more understanding of lane discipline, and understand that if there’s not someone to your right that you are passing at an appreciably higher speed, then you should be over to the right. And this applies to every vehicle. I don’t think that taking out frustrations on trucks or phones or any particular subset of people will actually address the problem that people don’t understand “I should be over to the right unless there’s a vehicle there, and if there is, I should be passing it at a substantially higher speed so that I can get over.”

  • avatar
    mitchw

    My experience on the NY to DC stretch of I95 makes me grateful to truck drivers. They’re the ones driving sensibly, not clogging the left lane unless there’s a truly slow rig chugging up a hill, leaving adequate distance between each other, and moving over for stopped cars and police on the side of the highway. It’s the dingbats in private cars that make driving frustrating and dangerous; hogging the left lane, cutting off cars and truck during lane changes, and cutting the line before and after tolls.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Back in the day [50 years ago?], I hitched all over the US, mostly with semi drivers. Then as now, only worse now, those professional truck drivers have always been up against tight schedules sabotaged by a million things not in their control – traffic, breakdowns, weather, personal problems – just like in the article. They also, much more than we “roller skate” pilots, see what’s in front of them on the road and can interpret what they see so that they can do their best to make time. Yes, they should never use more than two out of three lanes, if conditions permit, but, unless I’m on an emergency run, I let them have as much of the road as they need.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I would hate to relegate a trucker to driving behind a driver going 40 mph in the right lane for thirty miles. However, it drives me nuts when a trucker tries to pass a slightly slower moving vehicle and then gets to a hill and ends up slowing down to the same speed and clogging traffic for the next five miles. I say, keep them in the right lane except for designated passing zones established in flat/downhill stretches.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    In the video, two things come to mind.
    1. The truck being passed could have let off the gas for a moment to allow the other truck to get by. They all have CB radios and can clearly ask.

    The GTFOOTW comment was uncalled for, especially since the man in the truck is making a living and the auto driver is making a silly video. The immaturity shows.

    Trucking companies like to play with their GPS toys to enjoy lower insurance rates and enforce discipline. And also act as though there are no traffic jams or other delays between two points, just take the miles and divide by 65 MPH, toss 20 minutes on that and call it good. Not only unreasonable but a recipe for failure.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    Yes, keep them to the right lane. Crossing Illinois on Interstate 80, the semi drivers block traffic the width of the state using both lanes.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    I could not agree with this idea more. Driving on I-81 just north of Harrisburg, PA is a perfect case in point as to why this rule is sorely needed. Every single time I drive through there I get stuck in a massive, slow moving line of traffic stuck behind a series of tractor trailers passing each other at .3 mph differences in speed over distances of 10 – 15 miles. It’s enough to drive a man insane. Two weeks ago I drove through there and was nearly sandwiched between a truck cutting me off pulling into the left lane at 50 mph to pass another truck doing 49 mph and the traffic behind me doing the same 65 mph at which I had been travelling.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    I would think a simple law requiring all vehicles in the right lane to yield to passing vehicles would suffice. That would deal with the big rig situation and all those jerks in full size trucks who speed up to prevent people from getting in front of them. If the rig being passed would simply take their foot off the gas for 5 seconds the passing time would be greatly reduced.

    • 0 avatar
      modelt1918

      Jerks huh? I wish just once, all us truck drivers would go on vacation the same week. Then you would realize everything you have came on a truck. The shortages would never get caught up again.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    “Share the road as equals.” That’s a good one. If only the semi drivers would do so. Mile after mile after mile, the semis block traffic on I80. The impression that I get (driving in Illinois) is that the semi drivers think they are the state police by keeping both lanes clogged. Get it? The semis block traffic on I80 and have done so for decades. Speed limit? Not when it doesn’t suit their purpose. When it does, then yes! But only to clog both lanes. By the way, Illinois has a law requiring traffic to use the passing lane only for passing, and this goes for all vehicles. Well, when a semi cannot or will not make an expeditious pass, there might as well not be such a law. One final thing: if you think semi drivers are such sweethearts, talk to a freight train engineer. The hatred semi drivers have for freight trains is legendary. Semi drivers are a law unto themselves whenever they can get away with it. Don’t believe me? Get in front of a semi on an under powered motorcycle and see what happens. Better yet, drive cautiously when the Interstate is covered with a few inches of slushy unplowed snow and dare to interfere with a semi’s progress. They’ll do their best to pass you regardless of the danger it presents. Better yet, get in the way of a semi on I80 while driving in Pennsylvania (especially in the rain). You better have a strong heart, an excellent vehicle, and top level driving skills to survive an encounter with semis bouncing in and out of lanes cutting through traffic. Right lane only for semis regardless of circumstances.

  • avatar
    rnc

    In the f’d up state I live in (SC), to save money they make the on ramps for the next exit the off ramps from the previous (there is one called malfunction junction where 20 and 26 meet near the capital if you are lucky to be doing 30-40 when you have to hit the interstate in non-traffic) in heavily traveled areas, wouldn’t work. Now in the Atlanta area and Charlotte area those rules work as the off ramps end after about a mile and the on ramps start on the other side.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Maybe we can set a single speed for all trucks, and then attach them together so they form a big single line… have like a dedicated roadway for them, so they dont hold up the rest of the cars on the road… oh wait, we already have that… a train. :)

    Actually, although I do wish we used more freight trains in this country rather than rely on trucking, but I realize it comes down to cost and convienence. And I just returned from a 3000 mile road trip all over the Eastern US. I witnessed first hand some of the most horrible summer traffic I ever saw, and to be honest, the truckers were the best drivers on the roadway. They tended to wait for a good sized opening before passing, they passed quickly and moved back over quickly, I didnt see any rude driving on thier part. Now the other drivers of cars were another story… terrible drivers, no lane awareness at all, traffic would maddeningly slow down on every hill, it was just a terrible trip displaying just how crappy US drivers are. The ones that really kill me are the people who slow down to 45 and put on thier hazard lights when its raining hard, never thinking that if they are that scared of the rain, maybe they shouldnt be in the fast lane?? Not to mention, putting on the flashers makes it harder to see when they brake for no apparent reason.

    I have sworn off road trips for the near future.

  • avatar

    It’s unfortunate, but the way the rules are now it does create a perverse incentive for trucking companies to impose too-tight deadlines on drivers as a way to drive profit. Or rather, the dispatchers and owners are always one or two sets of regulations behind reality in their expectations.

    I was a dispatcher for a while, and dealt with haz-mat shipments, which carried even more headaches from a regulatory standpoint (a good thing, BTW) and as rules evolved around log books, number of hours on-shift, etc I had to adjust my expectations accordingly. I didn’t have to real with governors, but the tighter restrictions on number of hours on-shift before taking a nap made it necessary to adjust some very profitable routes to stay legal. Absolutely nobody was happy with the change, but looking at it rationally with 15 years of hindsight I can see that it was necessary.

    Driving trucks, especially long-haul, isn’t a job that suits a lot of people. If you’re the right sort of person, it’s very rewarding and fun. But if you’re planning on doing it for a career it takes a lot of patience, discipline, and an extraordinary ability to put up with crap. Some rules, like limits on hours in-seat and drug tests really are beneficial overall. But I’d balance them with limits on the demands we can legally place on those same drivers. If we’re going to reduce the amount of road they can cover in a day by 200 miles, we should also make sure they’re not expected to make up 100 of those by not stopping to eat/piss/check tire pressure/anything else that stimulates the brain. It’s a fair compromise.

    We’ve got a lot fewer amphetamine-fueled truckers pulling 24-hour shifts these days, but we’ve also got a lot fewer experienced, safe, competent drivers out there too. It seems to me we could strike a balance by offsetting policies that penalize the truckers with protections that ensure driving is still a career worth pursuing.

    Back on-topic: trucks in the Passing Lane (Not the left lane, not the fast lane. The PASSING LANE) are OK with me as long as they are actually passing. If it takes you 20 minutes to get past the truck to your right, you’re not passing.

    Oh, and Jalopnik’s comments are exactly what I would expect over there. That’s why I comment here.

  • avatar
    detlump

    I am convinced that truckers get on their CBs and plan to move over as I approach to pass. I could be the only car on the road, or part of a group, either way the truck moves out to pass and takes miles! to pass the other truck. And it seems like they enjoy rotating follow the leader too, I have hung back and watched them on occasion.

    Trucks should be limited to the right lane regardless of how many lanes are present, period. Give them more and they will take it all.

    The fine for lane violation should be $10K payable immediately.

    • 0 avatar
      modelt1918

      Again, this is 2011..we don’t use CB’s anymore. We don’t enjoy holding up. You guys act as if we get up in the morning and drive a big rig just to get in your way. Very irrational!

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Yes, and governed to no more than 55 mi/hr.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’d rather see these self important clowns held up for 2 minutes than commerce for 2 seconds. If they’re late for something, shudda left earlier. Traffic was light on the rural highway between nowhere & who cares. Everyone holds someone up sometime. A single car can trip a light & hold up dozens.

    Looks like they approached the trucks mid pass. If the trucker cut them off plus a whole row of cars behind them, it’d be a different story. Otherwise it was fair play, get over it.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Might be better to restrict morons in cars to only one lane untill proof is discovered that car operators actually know how to drive

  • avatar
    ptschett

    We don’t need no new stinkin’ rules.

    What we do need is car drivers that understand lane discipline. For every time I’ve been the victim of a situation like the video where the slow passer was a truck, there have been many more where the slow passer was in a car that had more than adequate ability to get the pass over with. I think us in cars wouldn’t be caught behind a slow truck passing a slower one so much if the truck drivers could trust us to get our pass finished in a reasonable amount of time.

  • avatar
    tiredoldmechanic

    Consider yourselves lucky to have a right lane for trucks to operate in. Here in British Columbia there are 2 highways that cross the province and once you get east of the lower mainland (Vancouver and environs) most of it is 2 lane with occasional passing lanes. Right up to code for 1962. No self respecting trucker would even consider less than 500HP or 18 speed overdrive transmission, so these guys can really move. There’s nothing like sharing a twisty mountain highway with 70 tonnes of Peterbilt piloted by some pilled up yahoo trying to get to Calgary or Vancouver in record time. There’s also a real thrill for the truckers when vacation season rolls around and it’s bumper to bumper camper trailers and SUVs cutting them off and passing on blind corners. I’ve travelled all over the states but I’ve never seen anything to compare to what goes on over the Rogers pass or the Crowsnest.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    not sure of the best way of doing it, but rigs, and all large vehicles, need to be throttled down asap……..this is industrial equipment being tossed around like sports cars, destroying highway infrastructure in the process, let alone the thousands of innocent lives snuffed out when they have “accidents” (invariably explained away by the almost always surviving truck jockeys as incidents attributable to phantom small cars that “cut them off”). Enough!

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    It is amazing the misunderstanding that Americans have about trucking and how truck drivers work. Think it is bad now? What until the Mexican truckers get up here!
    I have 35 years of putting up with crap from you people.
    In 1968, the congress passed legislation that made a law that freight must be delivered “just on time”. Ever been to a retail store and asked if they have more product in the back room and were told that “everything we have is in the front”?
    If you people get what you want, product would be late or not delivered on time and shortages would be amazing. Then you would be upset because those damn truck drivers can’t get our product here on time!

  • avatar
    LALoser

    We need a massive education/ awareness program regarding lane use. All the time you will see people ramp onto the freeway and dart straight into the left lane…at 45 MPH. Here in Hawaii it is a major problem. It seems all companies require their slow-moving trucks to ride in the left lane…even city trucks.
    From living in other parts of the world I have seen and worked with large vehicles making deliveries and one thing has great results: No large trucks during rush hours. From 6 to 9 AM and 3 to 6 PM all are banned from from large metro areas. It works.

  • avatar
    ehsteve

    Parts of Idaho limit trucks to the right lane and a lower speed. It suited me just fine when I lived there.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    No problem with trucks here. They use the left lane to pass me all the time! Not much congestion where I live.

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