America's Truckers, Why Is Your Time and Fuel More Valuable Than Mine?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

Long distance driving is something that I enjoy doing, but most of the time, my driving is restricted to within 50 miles of where I live, just outside of Detroit. In the past few months, though, I’ve been a bit of a highway child.

I spent my birthday in December driving to Peoria to interview the farmer who owns Larry Shinoda’s personal Boss 302 prototype for a book that I’m doing for Car Tech Books on muscle car prototypes. In January and February I made a couple of trips down near Columbus to hang out and talk guitars with Jack Baruth. Speaking of guitars – also in Ohio – was a mint condition Pee Wee Les Paul that I wanted for my grandson’s future use.

Toyota loaned me a Highlander with all-wheel drive for the Chicago Auto. Lexus tossed me an IS 350 F Sport that I took to New York. The driving conditions ranged from the Super Bowl Sunday blizzard to sunny and dry coming back from NYC. The one constant condition: America’s over the road truck drivers seem to think that their time and fuel is more valuable than of people driving cars and light trucks.

I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You’re driving along on the Interstate; cruise control set at the speed limit or X many MPH over without calling undue attention in that jurisdiction. Up ahead in the right lane. You see a caravan of two or more semis going the speed limit for big trucks. You smoothly more over to the left. As you get ready to pass the trucks, one of them pulls out into your lane to pass, only instead the trucks do a 61 MPH vs 60 MPH drag race for however long it takes. Meanwhile, you have to slow from your cruising speed and cool your heels until it’s safe to pass the leapfrogging truck.

I first saw this described by my colleague Mr. Baruth. It just so happened I was on the phone with him (hands free) while getting delayed by one of these semi drag races on my way to Indiana.

Now that truck driver can see you in his or her mirrors and he has to know that you’re going to have to slow from your cruising speed if he tries to execute the pass. Apparently, him keeping to his schedule and using the minimal amount of fuel is more important than your schedule, your ability to maintain a constant speed and good fuel mileage. I believe truckers are violating one of the social conventions of driving. A certain amount of give and take is required so the this highway dance proceeds smoothly and safely. You let me merge and I let you merge.

If you have any real experience driving on the highway, you know how your own driving affects others. At one time or another, we’ve all been pinned in by a driver who doesn’t care about anything but their own speed. By the same token, some of us have yielded to the temptation of speeding up just enough to do the same to a driver we’ve decided is acting selfishly – after all, social conventions do need occasional enforcement. If you’re doing a socially acceptable cruising speed in the left lane, you shouldn’t have to slow down because someone in the right lane waits until the last possible second before pulling in front of you to make a pass. I believe in getting along to go along, but also in not being intimidated.

On one of my recent highway trips, a caravan of truckers was doing its leapfrog drag race. Car drivers were unable to even reach the speed limit. One particular truck driver doing did the big rid leapfrog more than once as he moved up in through the caravan. I’ll admit I yielded to the temptation mentioned above. When the opportunity presented itself, I made it very clear, but in a safe manner, that I could force him into driving how I wanted him to drive. It took me a couple of times before he got the message, but he did eventually get the message and backed off. Understand – I didn’t do anything like cut him off or in any way endanger either one of us or other drivers. I just used position and speed differential to make him stay where I wanted him to stay, not how he wanted to drive. I did the same thing he and his colleagues do to dominate smaller vehicles all the time.

I understand the importance of the trucking industry to American commerce. Truck drivers indeed move the goods upon which we rely in our modern lives. They aren’t, however, more important than anyone else on the road. Sharing the road goes both ways.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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  • Otter Otter on Apr 24, 2015

    I see this as, at least in part, symptomatic of the poor level of driving ability in the US compared to, say, western and northern Europe. I think it is best dealt with by laws requiring trucks to either stay in the right lane only or out of the left lane under all circumstances, and ruthless (if necessary) enforcement of these laws. I do believe that drivers of vehicles have a responsibility for other road users (or people in the public space) that are more vulnerable than they are, and everyone is more vulnerable than someone in a loaded Class 8 semi.

  • DrGastro997 DrGastro997 on Apr 25, 2015

    The old saying truckers are "gentlemen of the road" doesn't apply anymore. Perhaps like many countries truckers should be heavily restricted to the designated truck lane- passing only when necessary and returning to your lane.

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