Common Courtesy On The Road Among Truck Drivers

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(Last Updated On: November 4, 2017)

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.

 

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Click for larger image

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.Shoulder1

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.

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Click for larger image

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.Passing1

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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29 Thoughts to “Common Courtesy On The Road Among Truck Drivers”

  1. Warren G.

    To me this is one of the most major issues we have. The public sees how rude and disgusting some drivers are and assume we are all like that. I think truckers should police themselves. A lot think what someone else does isn’t their business but it is when it comes to other truck drivers. In the view of the public, what one driver does, we all do.

  2. Sydney

    I have seen trucks driving on the shoulder to allow cars to pass, in places other than Texas! I always thought that was very considerate, but now that I know more about the laws, I hope they weren’t risking their licenses.

    1. Dennis

      Unfortunately, it seems many of the young generation drivers are bringing their me, me, me attitude with them into the truck. That is pretty dangerous.

      1. jeff

        Courtesy calls for truck drivers and any every other motorist to look out for each other. On the other hand, there are different laws for different states hence a driver has to understand what is applicable in a particular jurisdiction.

        1. Dennis

          The different state regulations is part of a truck driver’s job. Believe me, the police will not accept the, “I didn’t know” excuse. You need to learn the regulations of each state you go to. The trucker atlas has many of the regulations for each state listed in it.

          1. djanana

            I really get amused when I see drivers trying to convince the police by using such excuses but I wouldn’t blame anyone found on the wrong side of the law.

            All motorists need to look out for each other.

      2. luke

        It is unfortunate that the attitude of the younger drivers is all centered on themselves but I then my question is who can correct this?

        I bet they won’t even care to listen to the experienced truck drivers?

        1. Dennis

          Like many of the young generation, they won’t listen to anyone. Everything is about them, and this generation of young are the most self-centered group I’ve ever seen.

          Then you add the “I’m invincible” and the “This won’t happen to me” attitude that all young people feel, and not just the current ones, but all generations of young folk and the “This won’t happen to me”, it’s a bad mix.

  3. GMen96

    Great article! I can certainly relate to all of the things you discussed. It amazes me the number of truck drivers who I see talking on their cell phones. I have a bluetooth device that I use on the occasion that I absolutely must take a phone call while I am driving, and I would never be without it. Mostly, I just prefer not to take calls until I make a pit stop, or let my girl (who sometimes travels with me) handle the phone calls.

    1. Dennis

      That’s smart driving!

    2. malcolm

      One thing that I really fear doing is talking on the phone while driving so I don’t know how truck drivers get their way around this. It looks like a really risky thing to do. You could cause an accident by simply talking on the phone.

      1. Dennis

        It is illegal for a truck driver to have the phone in their hand. Hopefully, they’ll get hit with the $2,750 fine before they hit someone.

    3. jayden

      If any driver MUST pick a call, the hands free option is the best one. Just two seconds of a lapse in concentration can have serious consequences. I don’t listen to anyone that tries to convince me that they can multitask when driving.

      1. Dennis

        Hands-free is legal, but tests have shown they can be just as distracting. Whether you’re holding the phone or not, you’re still talking on it, but the purpose of not allowing the phone to be held is so both hands can be used to hold the wheel, plus holding the phone is an added distraction.

        I really have no problem with hands-free. In my opinion, talking on a phone or talking to someone in the truck are the same thing except that if you’re talking to someone in the truck you will look at the other person sometimes. On the phone, you’ll be looking at the road, or at least I would hope that’s where they’d be looking.

        1. wayne

          Hands-free can be distracting even though both the hands can be holding the wheel. It really depends on what’s being discussed on phone and how much of your concentration your using in the course of the conversation.

          All drivers just need to courteous and careful while driving on the road.

          1. Dennis

            Courtesy seems to have gone out the window.

    4. luke

      One thing I have learned to accept is that I cannot multitask and it is as simple as that! So when I am driving I put my cell phone away and focus on the road. I cannot imagine seeing a truck driver using the phone and insisting that they have done that for years.

      A small mistake can water down years of experience.

      1. Dennis

        And that small mistake could mean the loss of a life. I don’t know why anyone would want to take that chance. The odds of making that mistake when not looking at the road are not as small as many people seem to think.

  4. Jeanette

    My grandparents are truck drivers and whenever I think about them on the road I get nervous. Not because of their driving habits, but because of other truck drivers being unreasonable or unsafe. I really appreciate this post bringing these common discrepancies to light for the public, as well as a reminder to fellow truck drivers. Please stay safe out there!

    1. Dennis

      A lot of the reason I retired was watching the quality of truck drivers, and other drivers, getting worse and worse.

      Thanks for the comment.

      1. wayne

        You raise a really valid point! A trucker may be following all the regulations and driving safely but they also need to watch out for other drivers on the road.

        If everyone on the road was a law abiding citizen, it would have been much easier and safer out there.

        1. Dennis

          Personally, I wish there were truck only roads. I would be interested to see if cars wrecks would decrease dramatically. My guess is they may decrease but not by much. Instead of crashing with a truck they will have a wreck with another car because it’s the driver’s behavior that caused the wreck, not the vehicles involved.

          1. jeff

            Such roads would be a good idea and I think car wrecks would decrease. However, how realistic is this? How much longer can it take to build such roads? Courteous driving looks like the easier way out.

  5. Alec Terry

    Hi Dennis,

    Wow, I had no idea that there was that stiff of a monetary penalty for talking on your cell phone. I guess it makes sense though because that would definitely be considered distracted driving and no company wants to be liable for any damages resulting from that kind of behavior.

    I know this article was about truck drivers in particular, but I think that the pet peeves you listed can be applied to any type of motorist.

    I agree with you in that we should all just strive to practice courteous driving!

    1. Dennis

      Sure would cut down on road rage if people were more considerate.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Chris

    I worked for a flooring supplier for many years, and I met a lot of truck drivers when we received deliveries.

    Most of them were good guys, but you did get some that were not very well educated or just had a bad overall outlook on life. This probably contributes to some of the bad behavior you encounter on the roads.

    I know one thing after talking with these guys. It definately isn’t any easy job to do!

    1. Dennis

      It has gotten worse as the younger people have started getting into the industry. Many get rude with customers if they have to wait a little while. Some drive really aggressive. Some dress like they are at a party or hanging out with friends, not like they are at work.

      Some of the older drivers have bad attitudes too but the real professionals don’t.

      Thanks for the comment.

  7. Richard

    If I may just make a couple of statements.

    First, although I think that any trucker that drives while talking on the phone is a fool, I did not know that the result of an infraction is $2,750! My goodness, why would a driver even consider it? I think that it should be a law that all truckers should be required to have BlueParrott headsets!

    Second, I drove primarily in Texas and I had no idea that it was acceptable to drive on the shoulder to let others pass. Cheers to TX! One question though, when a trucker is on the shoulder trying to slow down, do you suppose that drivers of cars would pass the trucker then swerve in front of him to reach the exit? I would bet so! I am not sure that I would do that…would you?

    All the best,

    Rich

    1. Dennis

      The shoulder law only applies to 2 lane roads and they don’t have exits to worry about. Oddly, most cars will get out in the far left (oncoming) lane to pass once you’re on the shoulder. Makes me wonder why they didn’t do that without me moving onto the shoulder.

      Truckers are allowed to use headsets and those aren’t that expensive. I have no idea why some won’t use them and would rather risk the fine. I think most don’t realize what the fine is.

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