I have several pet peeves when it comes to the inconsiderate way many truck drivers, especially new ones, drive. I will put some of the blame for the new drivers on poor training, but some things should be common sense.
CELL PHONE USE
First, I want to point out for those who don’t know, the penalty for using a cell phone while driving a commercial vehicle is $2,750.
The following is the FMCSA definition of “using” a mobile phone:
The use of a hand-held mobile telephone means:
- Using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone to make a call;
- Dialing a mobile phone by pressing more than a single button; or
- Reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires a driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt.
The excuse, “I didn’t know” will not work if you’re caught. If your company never told you it may be smart to inform them that they need to let their drivers know. If your company condones or requires this behavior it could cost them up to $11,000.
According to the FMCSA:
Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a CMV can result in driver disqualification. Penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving.
If you want to use it as a hand-held, do so at your own risk. I know I didn’t have $2,750 laying around and I guess not many people do.
More from the FMCSA:
Disqualification – Multiple violations of the prohibition of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a CMV can result in a driver disqualification by FMCSA. Multiple violations of State laws prohibiting use of a mobile phone while driving a CMV is a serious traffic violation that could result in a disqualification by a State of drivers required to have a Commercial Drivers License.
ENTERING HIGHWAY FROM A STOP
I mentioned this in an earlier blog post. It is such a perilous and idiotic move to enter onto a roadway from the shoulder from a dead stop. You have traffic coming down the right lane of a highway anywhere from 55 – 80 MPH, depending on where you are, and you want to jump in front of them doing 5 MPH? I have experienced this way too much. This is something that should fall under the “common sense” label.
What you should do is build up your speed on the shoulder then enter the main roadway once you’ve achieved a decent speed.
I had a potentially serious incident when a truck pulled out in front of me about 75 yards away. I was doing 65 and had no room to move to the left. He was doing less than 10 MP but I was already expecting it and had started slowing down but I did have to move onto the shoulder to avoid a rear-end wreck.
Make sure when you pull over there is nothing in front of you that will require you to pull directly onto the main road.
DRIVING SLOWLY IN THE WRONG LANE
We are told that when there are more than two lanes we should drive in the lane to the left of the right lane. For the most part, this is great.
However, there are exceptions. I’ll use I-35 from Jarrell, Tx to just north of San Antonio. This is a three-lane highway but trucks are restricted to the two right lanes. When you travel in the lane to the left of the right lane, you are traveling in the lane that faster trucks use to pass. It’s extremely rude to get in that lane when traveling below the speed limit. The speed limit along much of that road can be as high as 75 MPH.
I have seen many instances where the slow truck in that lane was moving as slow as the traffic in the right lane, around 50-55 MPH. So why was that truck not in the right lane also? It has no business in the only lane for trucks to travel at the speed limit.
So, no matter how many lanes there are if trucks are restricted to the right two lanes and you can’t do the speed limit, stay in the right lane.
ALLOW TRUCKS TO PASS
One of the most annoying things is when trucks are blocking up both lanes because the truck to the left is taking a long time to pass the one on the right.
What I was taught was if the truck passing me was having a hard time doing so and traffic was starting to get behind them, the courteous thing to do is to slow down to allow the truck to get around you. There is no reason to keep moving along keeping that truck stuck out there. People get angry at the truck that is trying to pass but the anger should be directed to the truck to the right who refuses to help the truck pass him. Many times I made my move to get around with no traffic in sight behind me but I was out there so long that traffic did finally catch up and line up behind me. Unfortunately, it isn’t too wise to slow down with a line of cars behind you because it will probably result in someone behind you running into someone else.
Not only did I see a lack of this courtesy, I saw worse behavior by trucks being passed.
I’ll give just one experience of the multitudes I’ve had.
I caught up to a truck pretty quickly so I went into the left lane to get around him and I was doing it relatively quickly. Once the nose of my tractor got even with his driver window he sped up to the same speed I was going and maintained that speed. Ok, there wasn’t any traffic behind me so I got behind the truck. Suddenly, he slowed down to 50 MPH again. I moved back to the left lane and started around him, and once again, when I reached his window he sped up to my speed. Once again, I got behind him. Once again, he slowed back down to 50. I tried once more to go around and got the same result. So, what I finally did, since I was extremely angry at this point, was to exit at the first place I could find and sit there 15 minutes to cool off. What purpose did this behavior serve? It was obviously intentional.
I’ve had similar situations and I’d get behind the truck I was trying to pass and they’d speed up and leave me behind. Even though that was a lot better than the game-playing the other driver was doing it’s still annoying when you get directly next to a truck and they decide to speed up at that point.
This is inconsiderate and aggravating.
Driving a truck is not a match of egos. It’s something to be taken seriously and to be done safely. There isn’t room for immature game playing.
Driving On Shoulder In Texas
I’m throwing this in because it’s obvious most drivers aren’t told about it.
Texas is a state where you are allowed to drive on the shoulder of two-lane roads to allow others to pass. Of course, you want to make sure there is nothing on the shoulder you can hit and you want to make sure it’s wide enough to fit your entire truck. Number two also relates to the part of this post about picking up speed before entering the roadway.
§545.058 – DRIVING ON IMPROVED SHOULDER
- (a) An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only:
- (1) to stop, stand, or park;
- (2) to accelerate before entering the main traveled lane of traffic;
- (3) to decelerate before making a right turn;
- (4) to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn;
- (5) to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
- (6) as permitted or required by an official traffic control device; or
- (7) to avoid a collision
I don’t know if any other states permit this. I have seen drivers in Arizona do it but I don’t know if it’s legal.
Truck driving is stressful enough without having to deal with inconsiderate truck drivers. The best rule of thumb is to treat other drivers in the same way you want to be treated.
Dealing with shippers and receivers can be extremely nerve-racking at times, but it’s part of the job that is unavoidable. In my next post, I will talk about how to deal with the situations that could arise.
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