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Tailgating Trucks – Sloppy Lane Changes; Real Stories From the Road

Rick Smith talks about common mistakes made by the pros and Sunday drivers alike

Joker’s to the left of me, Clowns to my right… Here I am, stuck on the highway with you!

Do you honestly drive that thing as though you are in a Toyota? I mean seriously!

After 21 years of being on the road traveling in all 48 Continental US States, 9 Canadian Provinces and well over one million miles I am continually amazed at how some of my professional colleagues operate a commercial motor vehicle.

We all are familiar with those laser engraved words on your personal vehicle’s side view mirror, you know the ones: “Objects in this mirror are closer than they appear.”

Tailgating ain’t no party

car-tailgatingYet, it never ceases to amaze me when I look in my mirrors and see what appears to be someone actual inside the bus because they are just that damned close to my rear bumper.

Tailgating is the one thing my fellow drivers on CB complain about most when it comes to four-wheeler drivers. Wait a minute, I take that back, they complain about everything a four-wheeler does – and Obama of course. Yet, I see my fellow drivers tailgating all the time.

Do you not realize what it takes to stop that behemoth you’re driving?

Do you realize that you can’t see what’s in front of the commercial vehicle you’re tailgating and you have no idea what’s the mind of the driver?

Is he about to pass?

Is he coming up on an obstruction?

Is he slowing to allow a vehicle to merge that will then shoot into the hammer lane when he finds the accelerator?

Tailgating is a big issue on our highways today no matter what type of vehicle is doing it. It’s frustrating to be the guy keeping 6 seconds of space between you and the bumper in front of you when that space is constantly being filled up by people that just have no clue.

But you have to continue to do the right thing and leave space between you and the vehicle in front of you. On the road it only takes a split second for you to become a statistic, or a plaintiff in a multi-million dollar negligence lawsuit simply because you were in a hurry.

Lane changes (Turn and face the strange)

bad_driverOne of the biggest challenges to my day on the road are you drivers that think a lane change consists of hitting the turn signal (if you even bother to signal) and turning the wheel in the same motion.

You must give the folks behind you time to realize your intentions and react. I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve had with drivers jumping into my lane as I’m passing no more than 10-feet from my front bumper.

Speaking of passing… when did passing become a multi-mile event? The object is basic physics. You must be going faster than the object you are trying to get around.

Let me say that again, you must be going faster than the object you are trying to get around. There is no such thing as a partial pass!

The 10-mile pass; know your governed speed

The other thing to remember as you ease your fleet spec’d, governed truck into the passing lane to pass the owner-operator spec’d, non governed truck that is climbing a hill at gross weight… What is the point?

You know, the moment you are on flat ground that owner operator spec’d truck is coming back around you. Stay where you are at, I can promise you, there will be other equally non-governed trucks and dare I say, those dreaded four wheelers that you complain about, piled up behind you because you cannot go much faster as you now tie up the passing lane.

One final point on passing: Every driver on the road knows what fleets are governed at what speeds. So, why does a driver governed at 67 mph want to jump into the passing lane to go around a guy that is governed at 68 mph?

This particular scenario is why I set my cruise control to 65 mph on Interstate 81 in Virginia. I get tired of passing the same folks over and over, or having folks pile up next to me because some guy is taking 10 miles to pass someone on one of the hills. At 65 mph everyone passes me and I have no issue with maintaining my safety cushion with the guy in front of me.

The art of the merge

mergeThe idea of the merge is to enter the highway at a speed that does not impact the traffic that is already on the freeway. If a vehicle already on the highway yields to your merger, that is called a courtesy.

Webster defines courtesy as the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others.

You do not have the right of way at the bottom of the ramp and sometimes, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, yield means stop. If you cannot safely merge, than you cannot safely merge.

For drivers that wish to move over and allow a vehicle in – you cannot extend a courtesy that you do not have. In other words, suddenly moving left and cutting off the truck, bus or car that is about to pass you is not a courtesy, but an idiotic move that endangers the lives of others.

It is the responsibility of the vehicle coming down the ramp to yield or merge.

Now, all of my driving lessons may seem like I have a negative attitude toward other drivers. But let me share a secret as an entertainment driver 98.8% of our driving is done between the hours of midnight and 8AM. Do you know who is on the highways during those hours?

Nobody except true professional drivers! And the occasional S*&^T truck that couldn’t find a parking space at the truck stop.

Your stress level will change exponentially if you change your driving habits to sleep during the day and drive during the night. You will pull into a truck stop at eight o’clock in the morning and have zero trouble finding a parking space, no wait for a shower and a restaurant that is not full.

To be honest the entertainment industry has ruined me. I am so accustomed to driving through the middle of the night, that when I must drive during the day I can honestly feel my blood pressure rise.

I would encourage you to try this for two weeks and see if it doesn’t change your attitude and stress level. I say two weeks, because it will take you a week for your internal clock to adjust to the change, but I can promise you that you will like the results.

Until next time… Motor On!