Driving Behavior

A few days back, one of the major national websites had a link to a discussion about people's pet driving peeves. The number of posts was enormous, but I read through a few dozen of them. There were a few posts about truck drivers as well as a couple from truckers. I was tempted to answer a few of them from a truckers point of view, but decided to skip it.

Now I wish to point out that unlike many (perhaps most) truck drivers, I actually have a pretty high opinion of how considerate the motoring public is towards trucks. Yes, there are inconsiderate drivers out there, but not enough of them that it is impossible for me to get into traffic from an onramp even during heavy traffic for example. Perhaps someone might want to argue that even a majority of drivers are inconsiderate, however I would counter that if this is true the minority of drivers who are considerate have such a large impact, that I have been fooled.

By the way, I have been driving a "big truck" (tractor trailer) for close to 12 years now and just recently passed 1.5 million miles of experience. Now I am not claiming to be "the" expert as a result, because there are many drivers out here with far more experience then I. But I do think that I have been at this long enough to claim to have an informed opinion.

But during these 1.5 million miles I have twice (you might be surprised only twice) run into outright jerks on the road. The first happened years ago and I won't go into it, but the second happened just yesterday and I am going to describe what happened.

I was traveling west on US-82 along the Southern part of Arkansas. It was a section of two lane road, well into dusk with a light rain. Speed limit 55 MPH (Miles Per Hour).

I was doing just a little bit better then the speed limit, but not enough that a state trooper would even blink an eye if I came across one. I came up on two four wheelers traveling about 45 MPH. No problem, I just followed at a safe distance and patiently waited for a chance to pass. When we came up on a long stretch of open highway with a break in oncoming traffic, I flipped on my blinker and moved into the left lane. I was heavy, grossing about 77,000 lbs, so it took me a while to accelerate. As I moved past the first vehicle in line, the lead vehicle accelerated as I pulled even with his back bumper. He sped up to 60 MPH. The vehicle following the first lingered back and I did not have a problem with the lead vehicle accelerating. If he was going to pick up the pace it would be OK with me and I'd just fall into line. I was going to be satisfied if he just maintained the speed limit.

As soon as I moved into the right lane, the lead vehicle started to slow down. There was now oncoming traffic so I did not have the opportunity to jump out into the left lane again. Following the lead vehicle, I slowed back down to 45 as we headed into a series of curves and hills where there was no opportunity to pass.

We came up on a long stretch of straight, rather flat road. I decided I was going to take advantage of the opportunity to try again. I once again flipped on my blinker, slowly moved into the left lane and started to accelerate. Once again the lead vehicle slowly accelerated along with me. This time I did not stop when we reached 60 MPH. My truck is governed at 82 MPH and I was going to take it to the limit if necessary. There was plenty of open highway in front of us without any sign of oncoming traffic. At 65 MPH the vehicle I was attempting to pass backed out of it and allowed me to go by. As I drew next to him he started driving halfway on the shoulder.

From this action I took it that perhaps he was just an inexperienced driver who was scared to have a large vehicle next to him. I kept my foot on the pedal to keep his suffering to the minimum amount of time necessary, slowing down only after I had cleared him. After I passed him he seemed to resume his 45 MPH pace. Poor guy, I thought, as he receded into the distance behind me.

I had only gone about a half dozen miles when I saw a pair of headlights approaching from the rear. As they drew near I recognized it was my "friend". For him to have caught back up with me as quickly as he was approaching he must have been going at least 65 MPH. "What the heck is he up to?" I wondered. I hadn't noticed a cell phone stuck to his ear when I passed him, however I thought that perhaps he had one of the hands free earpieces and had been engaged in a phone conversation. Perhaps he didn't want the noise of my big truck interfering with his conversation as I passed, which is why he had attempted to prevent me from doing so. Once he was done with the conversation, he picked up his pace. We came up on a section of highway with a passing lane on our side. I moved over into the right lane in case he wanted by. My friend accelerated and passed me.

He maintained his pace until the end of the passing lane and we entered a stretch of road where it would be unsafe for me to pass and then he slowed down to, you guessed it, 45 MPH. If we came upon a stretch where it would be safe for me to pass, he would speed up for a short time and slow back down once it was no longer safe for me to do so.

I was not going to develop a case of road rage and maintained a safe following distance. If he was attempting to try my patience he was going to fail the test. As long as he maintained at least 45 MPH I was just going to follow along behind him. If he tried to escalate things by slowing down even more I was going to find someplace safe to pull over and let him get on down the road.

He did always maintain 45 MPH and we ended up having quite a string of vehicles following behind us by the time he reached his destination. He pulled off at a Travel Plaza and guess what, no blinker. I noted the Travel Plaza had a few places for trucks to park and briefly considered stopping to have a word with him. I'd explain to him that it was unwise to attempt to antagonize a truck driver into road rage. If he ran into the wrong driver behind that very large, very heavy vehicle; a driver with a bad attitude to begin with and who was having a bad day on top of it all? Well he could end up having his very light, very small vehicle pushed off into the ditch.

I quickly decided it was not worth my time. It would just be wasted effort. If he was not smart enough to have figured it out on his own, I was not going to have much chance of convincing him. Besides, it was getting late and I still had quite a distance to cover to get to the truck stop where I was planning on spending the night. I needed to get there early enough I still stood a chance at finding a place to park.


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