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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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.
I am not an over the road truck driver, I do own dump trucks. For you people that think trucks are actually trying to control traffic, get a clue. They don't care how fast you go just as long as you don't cut them off. They are only trying to get from a to b on time & as safe as possible. If you could actually see in front of the truck it is most likely a car that slowed the truck down but when the truck moves over you obviously miss that. I am not saying there are not rude truck drivers but there are far ruder car drivers & after dealing with a bunch of idiots that have no respect of the fact that these people are doing a service for you, I am sure they can get frustrated. If you don't like the spray from the tires, than learn how to drive in the rain. It is simple to slow down for a second wait for the car in front of you to get past the truck than speed up & lower the time you are next to the truck. Most people won't do this because they are too afraid that the truck might want over & of course you can't have that. If people just gave themselves an extra five minutes of drive time so that they could be courteous & let that truck over than most of the problems would be solved. But most people cannot manage a simple task as courtesy. I drive a car to work & there are a lot of people that if I turn on my blinker the car in the other lanes has to hurry up & close the gap because there is no way they want to let someone in, it might make them 1 second later to their destination. Just remember as you pass that truck it is carrying the food you eat, the clothes you wear & every other necessity that you have to have so the least thing you can do is show a little respect for the people that are driving, they are usually under paid & definitely under appreciated.
This article was pointless.
I have been a Class A CDL holder for 3 years now, and a licensed driver for almost 20 years. I have always had respect for truck drivers, but it is ten-fold now that I am one. Yes, there are some idiots out there with CDL's, and there are some non-idiots that make mistakes. It's like any other job. Now, let's talk about the real problems on the road:
1. Speed = Time. Our speed is limited by our companies (my truck does 60 max). It is limited by the state. It is limited by having an 80,000 lbs truck, that when coming onto the highway on a slight incline will do 0-60 in 2 MINUTES, if it makes it to 60 at all. Ya, we are stingy when it comes to maintaining our speed. It's a little annoying to do everything we can to maintain speed, only to have a little 1500 lbs car that could easily do the speed limit, sitting in the passing lane doing 5 miles under. Keep in mind, most of us get paid by the mile. No matter how long it takes us to drive that mile.
2. Lane changing is the most vunerable a tractor trailer is. I, for one, will not move over for you to get on the highway. YOU have the yield sign, not me. Most people fail to realize that you are responsible for bringing your vehicle up to the highway speed BEFORE entering onto the highway. I would slow down by 5 mph to let you in if you were doing the speed limit. Most of you, however, screw up, and try to come out underneath us while doing 5-10 miles under the posted speed limit. I am not moving for you, I sure as hell am not slowing down 15 mph for you, and I physically cant go 5 mph faster.
3. HIGH BEAMS!!!!!! Ok, how much sense does it make to blind the guy barrelling towards you with 80,000 lbs of truck? If you can see the orange lights above our cab, we can see your headlights! This still applies even if there is a median wall or jersey barrier!!! It applies on hills too! DONT wait till you can see our headlights to turn off your high beams!!!! We are not sitting on the bumper!
4. SAFE DISTANCE!!!! This one has been talked about a lot in the comments, but it is that much of a problem. If you are behind us, and cannot see our side mirrors, then you are too flippin close. Don't complain about your windshield chipping. If you pull in front of us, and are any closer than 100 ft, then don't complain when you get turned into grill goo cause you had to slam on your brakes.
5. IDIOTS! Ya, they are everywhere. I deal with them all day long. Sometimes I will scream and curse at them while I am driving. Specifically to vent it, and not let it build. Sometimes I will just call the police. Which I did the other night. The driver was showing clear signs of road rage, and was putting everyone around them in danger. It should not be tolerated, no matter who is doing it. Which is why the state police pulled the truck driver over I called in.
If you are past the white line that normally has the (stop here on red) sign next to it, you are in our roadway. Those white lines are put up specifically to section off the road for big trucks.
If you are speeding and a truck pulls out forcing you to slam brakes, dont complain that we are pulling out in front of you, when we were expecting you to be going the speed limit.
If you find yourself having the same problem with big trucks over and over, chances are your are doing something wrong to begin with. Most of us follow the rules and respect the laws.