That Drives Me Nuts: The Four-Wheel Perspective
What things do trucks do that annoy car drivers the most?
While it's true that car drivers can be boorish, truckers are far from innocent in the asphalt interplay between four- and 18-wheelers. They are frequently the source of aggravation and even fear for plenty of car drivers.
When MSN Contributing Editor Chuck Tannert was a kid, his family was involved in a disturbing incident with an out of control trucker on a spring break trip to Williamsburg, Va. "My family was driving down I-95 somewhere in New jersey," recalls Tannert, "when a trucker got right up against our Oldsmobile's rear bumper. My father, a cautious driver and one that did most of his business travel at the time in his car, was already driving 10 mph over the speed limit. Before he could pull into the left lane to let the rig pass, the trucker pulled into to the left to pass us. But before his rear wheels had completely passed the front of our car, the trucker jerked back into the right lane, pushing us off the road. Luckily, we were all fine."
The trucker continued to terrorize the Tannert family for 20 miles, until they reached a toll booth, where they let highway officials know what was happening. "When the guy saw what was happening, he jumped out of the cab, had to pull and button up his pants as he did, and started yelling at the toll booth officials and our car," says Tannert. "It was a disgrace."
While Tannert's experience is a rare, it does happen. (Check out this YouTube video if you want proof). Truckers say the issue is often one of awareness, that most car owners simply don't understand the challenges faced by a truck driver tasked with wrangling a 65-foot-long vehicle that can weigh 80,000 pounds. We say that doesn't excuse homicidal behavior.
So what annoys you most about truckers? To find out, we asked Dr. William Van Tassel, who holds a PhD in safety education and is manager of driver training programs for AAA, to put together a list of the five things car drivers find most aggravating about sharing the road with big rigs. Here's what he had to say.
1. A trucker tailgates.
There's nothing like having your rear window filled with a massive Peterbilt grille. And if trucks have a longer stopping distance than cars, why don't they back off? Truth is that many truckers get a bonus for achieving fuel-economy goals. Keeping a steady speed is the best way for a truck to get its best fuel economy. So truckers hate to have to slow down.
It's up to you to control the situation, says Dr. Van Tassel. "Just as if the tailgater was a car or a motorcycle, the other driver obviously wants to go faster than you are traveling. The simple solution is to make a lane change to the right, which allows you to reset the situation behind you. And usually the other driver will appreciate your move. Slowing down or tapping your brakes is not a good alternative. In a collision with a large truck, you will lose." If you can't move right, pull over and let the bigger vehicle go by.
2. A truck's tires seem to explode when driving down the road.
Technically, the tires aren't exploding. They are losing their treads. Truckers call these separated tread sections "gators," and they are usually caused by an underinflated tire that overheats and then falls apart. The same thing happens to an underinflated car tire. There's just more opportunity for it to happen to a truck with 18 wheels that's also often heavily loaded. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do here, except to drive around it. If it's small, you might be able to drive over it.
3. Big trucks spray water all over the place, blinding everyone around them.
It happens all the time, and it seems inexcusable, especially when we find out that heavy trucks in the United Kingdom and other European Union countries are required to have spray-mitigation devices. However, a 2003 study commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that spray-reduction devices available at the time had little effect on trailers pulled by modern, aerodynamic tractors.
The situation so frustrated veteran truck driver Barry Andersen that he invented a solution: EcoFlaps. They have a meshlike texture that collects mist, allowing it to form larger droplets that fall to the pavement. More dramatic spray mitigation may happen by accident. By 2013, all long trailers used in California and neighboring states will be equipped with skirts that, along with other measures, are supposed to improve fuel economy. The skirts, according to Dan Crowder of manufacturer Transtex Composites, have a side benefit of reducing spray on wet roads.
In the meantime, Van Tassel of the AAA says car drivers should make sure they have good wiper blades and drive with the headlights on in the rain. "If the truck is passing you, back off and let them complete the pass more quickly," Van Tassel says. "If you are passing the truck, wait until you've got a clear path to get all the way past the truck before you attempt the pass, so you don't get stuck right next to the trailer. On two-lane roads, put your wipers on high speed before you meet an approaching truck."
4. One truck pulls over to pass the other, and then they run together, blocking two lanes.
Truckers call this an "elephant race," Kutz says, and it usually happens because one truck does not have enough power to complete the pass. If the passing truck is heavily loaded and encounters an incline midpass, it may just slow down. Of course, the truck in the right lane could back off and let him by. But that does not seem to be part of the trucking culture, whether it's due to ego or the pursuit of fuel economy. "Don't assume there's any malice on the part of the truck drivers," Van Tassel says. "These guys are too busy to mess with the public. It's best to just relax and wait it out." Or call the phone number on the trailer door and give their bosses a piece of your mind.
5. Trucks don't slow down when it's snowing.
The weight of a loaded truck and its relatively narrow tires make it much less likely than a car to hydroplane on wet or snowy roads. Truckers are often on a tight delivery schedule, and if they don't have to slow down, many won't, even if they are rolling 20 mph faster than cars on the same road. Traffic experts agree this speed differential can be very dangerous and can unnerve car drivers who may already be white-knuckling it through traffic.
Your best bet is to focus on your driving and let the truck go on by, Van Tassel says. "You don't want to be around if the trucker loses control." Later on, you might have the satisfaction of passing him after he plows into a snow-filled ditch. It's karma.
Veteran moto-journalist and Wisconsin-native Charles Plueddeman has been driving, riding and testing automobiles, motorcycles, boats, ATVs and snowmobiles for more than 20 years. He is a regular contributor to Boating Magazine and Outdoor Life, and his product evaluation articles have appeared in Popular Mechanics, Men's Journal, AutoWorld, Playboy, Boats.com and many other national publications and Web sites.
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I have to say the majority of truck drivers are good drivers and I understand their position. But, the Peterbilt grille filling my rear view mirror does not make a good day.
After reading all these comments I can say I don't like the idea of making the trucks larger on our highways. Which they are talking about and doing in some states. There has to be a limit and I think we've reached it. There are other ways of transport i.e. railroad...................
Trains have always been extremely efficient compared to big rigs; newer train technology is even MORE efficient; since truck drivers are now mostly delivering cheap chinese junk to walmart, and walmart is basically outsourcing more jobs than are creating by the trucking industry, it seems to be logical to just get rid of big trucks, with all the complaints, and inefficiencies. Additionally, big rigs ruin roads and we don't have $$$ to fix any of them here...trains are meant to deliver goods; roads are meant to deliver people..
yes, old folks here should not be driving but there are NO alternatives; I have seen several go up ramp off highway or on wrong way, been hit by old person parked in a parking lot who was delirious, didn't know where she was and apparently didn't even realize she just crashed into me; I thought she was pretending until she couldn't find any insurance and her daughter had to come; the trooper didn't do a single thing....anybody else would have lost their license;
at the same time besides being hit by old people, I have seen multitudes of trucks flipped over in the road, causing huge back ups...and nobody else to blame...
I have been in situations with road raging truck drivers driving recklessly, once again nobody else's fault if they are late due to traffic.
in buffalo last week the news showed huge snowstorm which will be the new normal from now on, i.e. freak snowstorms with several feets of snow...every vehicle, it seems, was a big rig....stuck idling...
it is outdated and our country needs to modernize or we will all go down the toilet....
As a 15 year truck driver with over one million safe driver miles, it's like this... There are good and bad drivers in any vehicle. Common courtesy has gone out the window. You forget the good drivers and remember a bad incident with a bad driver. Every person that has rode with me for the first time always says, "I didn't know it was like this!" And they have a whole new perspective and respect for trucks. What you know and speculate is far from the truth.
About 10% of truckers don't need to be driving. Companies will hire anything that breathes and that is societies fault for cheap freight and what follows. But the majority of truck drivers are well trained, courteous and professional.
The DOT is passing new legislation with new rules holding truckers and their employers more responsible on the quality of the driver they hire. New changes are just around the corner.
Car drivers on the other hand have no respect for driving laws anymore. They speed, tailgate, and don't use their turn signals. 90% of you can't pass a written test because you forgot the rules. Advice....
- Most trucks today are governed at 62 to 65 mph. That's why you see them drag racing to pass (elephant race?, never heard of that new term, but I like it).
- Don't hang out by a truck, a blown tire can go through your windshield.
- Don't pass a truck on the right, he'll get over when he has a safe distance. Passing on the right is considered improper passing anyways.
- A truck needs his momentum to get up a hill, give him room. Trying to change lanes in traffic, a car will speed up to cut you off instead of being courteous. You can slow and speed up alot easier than a truck.
- Barely speeding is another problem many don't realize. The person in the right lane comes up on a slow vehicle and needs to pass. Well, hit your brakes because here comes that person doing two over the speed limit. Speeding is speeding. Stop being a bad driver.
- New truck drivers come from cars, but yet you refer to them as bad truck drivers. Ironic?
- Why do you pass me only to jump back in front of me and slam your brakes on to get off the next exit? Just get behind me.
- Utilize drive right and pass left.
- Back ups happens from a simple brake tap and each person behind them hit there brakes just a hair more until there is a complete stop. I don't play traffic cop, but the earlier you get over for a lane squeeze, the better things are. When you rudely butt in line, the brake tap thing happens and traffic comes to a stand still.
- Distractive driving kills. A simple innocent text, phone call, eating can end your life. Don't think nothing will happen to you. That's the worst mentality to have.
- Scan and read traffic as far as you can see. I always try to leave myself an out. A shoulder is a blessing.
- Merging on a ramp, start looking in your mirrors asap. Get up to highway speed to merge. I see too many that wait until the last second to look and then they are lost. Merging is easy if you use your head. I always look down the interstate when I turn onto a ramp and I'll adjust my speed accordingly. Try it sometime.
I can go on and on. Just don't speed, don't tailgate, use your turn signal, use your headlights in bad weather and most of all be nice and courteous to everyone. Being rude gets nowhere.
My husband and I drove cross country for 18 years--we are now disabled due to an accident with a small car pulling a large trailer (that was too big for the little car, the trailer had no lights on it) My husband had already slowed down because we had training about driving on BLACK ICE. The people in the car were not hurt due to my husband being alert and taking the evasive. The people had never pulled a trailer before--nor had they driven on BLAC ICE. The investigating officer congratulated my husband on being able to control the truck and keep it up right.
You don't understand, many cars play beat the truck which makes it hard for us to change lanes even when there is a car or truck or cop on the side of the road .many cars have no respect for our turn signal at all when we turn it on they speed up so we can't move over. I hate tailgaters TRUCK or CAR. Have a great day.