Truckers and automobile drivers have contentiously shared the roadways for decades. Private passenger vehicles, referred to as four-wheelers by truck drivers, are often cited as the number one frustration that professional drivers deal with daily.
Are Truckers Part of the Problem?
Yes, there certainly are some truck drivers who do not operate professionally and should not be on the road. Just as a small percentage of car drivers cause problems and unsafe situations for truck drivers, a small percentage of truckers leave an impression on the public that the industry is full of rude and dangerous drivers.
That small fraction of bad truckers makes quite an impact on the public, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the highway patrol when they drive dangerously — tailgating automobiles in the pouring rain, for instance. This alone is a good reason for the public to dislike and distrust truck drivers. Until such behavior stops, truckers cannot claim the high road in the debate between professional and amateur drivers.
Welcome to the Elephant Races
When one truck attempts to pass another, and both are governed at nearly the same top speed, the trucks block two lanes of the interstate for an extended period and impede the flow of traffic. This is known in the industry as an elephant race. The problem occurs when the lead driver refuses to slow down a little to assist the passing truck. The problem worsens when trucks of different gross weights pass each other on hills but are then passed themselves on level road.
If you find yourself trapped in this type of situation, consider it a good time to take a break and grab a cup of coffee. Let the elephant races move on to the next town. As a trucker, you don’t need this added stress. If another truck governed at the same speed is trying to pass you, but it is obviously going to take a long time, the professional thing to do is to tap your brakes several times to alert the drivers behind you, and then slow down enough to let the other truck pass.
To be fair, passenger vehicles have their own version of elephant races; they will often ride side by side for miles going well under the speed limit, oblivious to the backups and headaches they are creating behind them. This can tempt even a good trucker to tailgate, but the temptation must be ignored. Professional drivers do not tailgate.
Understandably, passenger vehicle drivers do not like being stuck behind trucks, because the trucks obscure their vision. So cars often pass trucks only to immediately relax and slow down once their field of vision is open again. Truck drivers then have to pass the car, and the cycle repeats. In some cases, a four-wheeler driver will speed up when he or she notices someone trying to pass and then will slow down again when the vehicle attempting to pass either succeeds or gives up.
Stay away from these drivers. Pull over for a little while or, if you can do so without holding up traffic, slow down and let these problems get well ahead of you.
Advice for New Drivers
That small percentage of unprofessional truck drivers mentioned earlier rarely includes new truck drivers. Truckers with only two to three years of experience are the ones who tend to cause the most problems. By this stage of their career, they have generally gained a lot of confidence behind the wheel, and some believe they are invincible. Do not fall into this trap.
Drive defensively, and pay constant attention to everything around you. The difference between a near miss and an accident is attentiveness. Over time, you will develop a sixth sense for oncoming trouble. Just watching the way a car merges onto the highway can alert you to a likely problem. If you spot a car that looks like it could be a danger, keep out of its way.
Here are a few more helpful reminders for relatively new truckers:
- Do not block side streets when sitting in traffic.
- Always use your turn signals.
- Let passing drivers know when it is safe to move into your lane.
- Remember that you and your loved ones drive four-wheelers, too.
- Reckless truckers do not last long in the industry.
Keep the Airwaves Respectable
In most areas of the country, the citizens band radio channel for truckers is channel 19. It is an embarrassment to the trucking community. Unfortunately, the drivers who like to talk the most are the very ones who should keep their mouths shut, so ignorance, profanity, intolerance and generally rude behavior tend to rule the airwaves.
It is a good thing the CB craze of the 1970s is over and most passenger vehicles no longer use citizens band radios. Today, the CB airwaves are a waste of a valuable resource. Most drivers use channel 19 for directions, truck routing, weather information and emergencies. Far too often, such inquiries are met with nasty comments and no helpful information. Don’t contribute to this deplorable trend. If you can answer a question that a fellow driver poses over the radio, be a good citizen and help out.
Truck Stop Etiquette
Never leave your truck at the fuel island while you go in to make a phone call or get something to eat. Instead, park your truck in the designated area before you go inside. Likewise, do not wash your tractor at a fuel island.
If you are driving a reefer truck — one carrying refrigerated goods —pull forward into your parking space when your reefer unit is running so that the noise doesn’t keep the drivers parked next to you awake. If the weather is good, shut your truck down to save fuel and spare the environment. And never drop your trailer in a truck stop parking space so that you can bobtail closer to the building.
By showing politeness, courtesy, common sense and forethought, truckers can change the perspective of the public and the DOT. Professional truckers deserve respect for what they do, and dangerous truck drivers have no business on the roadways.