Use the CB to cope with ‘freight-training’ traffic phenomenon

Rey Moreno | September 08, 2013
I-40 east of Nashville during the morning rush hour
I-40 east of Nashville during the morning rush hour

The author of this story, Wisconsin-based Rey Moreno, is the independent owner-operator of Pro Star Enterprises.  

The daily commute is par for the course on the big road. Every major city has peak travel times. Drivers either adjust their schedule accordingly or begrudgingly march through it.

However, there are many weekend and holiday times that are simply unavoidable. Drivers want to get home by Friday evening or Saturday morning, and usually have to leave back out Sunday or early Monday. The problem is that the four-wheelers, campers and motorhomes are all on the same schedule, which creates congestion in areas far from the big city. In some cases, slow traffic runs from city to city for hundreds of miles without instigation by a single accident, bottleneck or construction zone.

We can’t change how everyone drives, but we do have the direct ability to change how we as professional drivers move through the crowd.

My days of setting the cruise control on 72 and making more than 150 lane changes a day are long gone. The older I get, the more I see myself slowing my speed down and making adjustments to my schedule to avoid troubled hot spots. And it sure would be nice if we could get along better out here. There just isn’t enough respect being offered by fellow professional drivers and I believe some changes are in order.

If you’ve ever made the drive through Wisconsin on I-90 during a Friday or Sunday afternoon, then you’re very familiar with the traffic phenomenon called “Freight-Training,” or “Clustering.” Freight-training occurs when a long line of four-wheelers follow close together in the left lane on a two-lane highway, leaving little to no safe distance between each other. Not only do the four-wheelers create a hazardous condition doing so, they also leave zero space for a big truck to get over into the left lane.

The dynamic that makes negotiating this phenomenon difficult for professional drivers is the additional element of slow moving campers and motorhomes in the right lane. So you have four-wheelers wanting to go 70-75 mph in the left lane and motorhomes going 55 in right lane on 65-mph cobbled blacktop. Big trucks usually cruising at 60-65 get slowed down by the campers and motorhomes, but can’t get over to the left lane because of the freight-training four-wheelers. Then, to make matters worse, the truck ahead of your own gets an opening into the left lane and takes 2-3 miles to pass the motorhome you’re stuck behind. Now you’re trapped in a cluster of cars to the left and unwavering slow traffic in the right. The battle of patience has begun.

To depart from dysfunction junction, let’s grab a lower gear to talk about good techniques that will help alleviate stress the next time you’re in the cluster box.

First and foremost, now is the time to be on CB channel 19 communicating with other professional brethren. We’re not talking about telling lies and killing story, what is usually heard on channel 19, we’re talking about speaking with courtesy and looking out for one another.

Technique #1 | When in the left lane and approaching a cluster of trucks stuck in the right, start asking if anyone wants out of that hole and leave room for them to get over.

Technique #2 | While in the left lane you see a slower truck in the right lane tapping the breaks because they’re getting held up by slower traffic — tap your brakes, too. Get on the radio and ask if they want over. Like the song goes, “Put a little Jake Brake in your heart.”

Technique #3 | Ask for help. If you’re stuck in a cluster, ask the next driver on the left if he’ll let you in. Like the good book says, “Ask and you shall receive.”

It’s important to remember that the major cause of congestion is dysfunctional motion, knee-jerk reactions, absence of communication and probably a few other colorful metaphors. Listen, we can’t change how everyone drives, but we do have the direct ability to change how we as professional drivers move through the crowd. With a little bit of song, prayer, fast heel and toe work, and about 100 or so CB curls, you’ll have danced your way through the storm. Seriously, the bottom line is to just start communicating and open up space for the other guy. Eventually others will see the progress and get with the program.

  • Zachary Bell

    The first trouble spot I know of is Illinois 47 between Dwight, IL and Gibson City, IL. There is a lot of container traffic, a lot of car traffic, and it’s only got 1 lane in each direction with LOTS of NO-PASSING zones. The container trucks either don’t have a CB or have the CB tuned to a channel other than 19.

    2 Fridays ago, a container truck rolled over at the junction of IL-165 and IL-47 at the small town of Sibley. The oncoming lane was closed off with reps from the Illinois State Police highway patrol, reps from the FMCSA and NTSB as well as fire and rescue squads. The trucks ahead of and behind me, the car drivers, and even some of the locals did not know about this incident until they came upon it. I am very thankful I had my CB on and tuned to 19 at the time, and knew the local roads that got me through and around the incident.

    I think CB Radios should be MANDATORY in all trucks, and that all drivers should be trained on how to use one, when to use one, and most importantly, when NOT to use one.

  • imtiredofcraparticles

    This article is a joke. I can’t believe Overdrive would even print this crap. But wait a minute, what am I thinking?? This article seems to be par for the course as far as trucking publications go. Just more drivel…

  • Southern Lady

    I just took a trip this past week to OK from KY and what I noticed was that no one talks on the CB any longer. Why is that? No one gave a bear report, construction back up info…I was just dumbfounded by the lack of respect to give out this information. Back in the day when I drove a truck that is how we communicated with each other, helped others, and kept fellow drivers out of trouble. I have talked to some of my old running buddies and they said it is so different now nothing is like it use to be. There is no respect, no helping each other and no one talks on the CB. I know back then if I hadn’t been able to talk to others on the CB and had a good time I wouldn’t have drove for very long. I have given up my CDL cause I don’t want to drive with the rules, regulations, and no CB chatter. I still talk to a few of my ole trucker friends that I made all those years ago that I met by talking over the CB…it makes me miss those days but it doesn’t make me want to go back to driving with the way things are now.

  • Joel

    I agree with Zachary, more drivers need to use their CB, many drivers nowdays turn theirs down, play on iphone, listen to music, etc., you can’t get response. In the past 40 yrs. my Cb has saved me to many times to mention. Large companies should make Cb training a large part of their safety training, would eliminate a lot of accidents

  • Rey Moreno

    Thanks guys for your responce. Together we can change things. until then, it’ll just be more of the same old thing. Lets quit pointing fingers and start pulling the thumb.

  • Rey Moreno

    Thanks for the reply. there’s still a few of us left. people will get with the program.

  • Rey Moreno

    i see drivers all the time with flats or dragging equipment. no responce on the radio so you get beside them to flag’em down and they look at you like YOUR crazy then slow down. thanks for the post

  • godfearingrebel

    This artical is spot on. I started driving on my 21rst bithday in ’99. Took a break from 2002 to 2011 and got the most disapointing shock of my life. We need to get that brotherhood back that we had less than ten years ago. I seldom hear about the things i need to hear and the lack of respect between us is awful. Half the drivers dont even have their radio on. This cb we have is an invaluable safety tool. We need to turn it back on. I also well remember having a couple of older drivers “helping” me brush up on my driving and people skills. That dont seem to happen anymore either and watching and listening to these student “drivers” makes me wonder what will happen to our industry

  • Rey Moreno

    Sorry ya feel that way. If you drove your tuck off a cliff, i probably would’nt feel much worse than I do right now.

  • Rey Moreno

    I often wonder about the princeipals taught at those schools.They say, those who can’t do, teach. I learned OJT towing big trucks by some really great old guys. I guess you may be a reflection of those who guide you from the beginning. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Mcmm

    Dropping like flys. I quit on June 12th. I have had enough of the non English speaking, 0 respect, flip flop holey greasy sweat pants wearing knuckleheads. My star car gone, just need to sell the trailer. Maybe become a super broker with a 75k bond!

  • Clint

    You know what your saying about the congestion by dysfunction is spot on and that the CB is a great tool . Unfortunately there are not enough truckers out there any more that run them , and the other problem is there is too many idiot Commercial drivers that dont know how to get up in speed and get around those impeding rt laners that cruise too slow . Of course Im talkin about those freeways that have the speed limits for trucks at 60 and 4 wheelers at 70 .. Those nitwits that call themselves truckers just dont get it when they do tie up the freeway and hold evrybody up trying to pass another trucker or a RV at a half a mile an hr faster that takes 2-3 miles its ridiculous they should just sit on that pace and ride it out . So therefore I wont even think about letting a trucker in unless I know he has been cruising along at a good clip. . Its really become a shennagin out on the highways with these new breed of truckers. ,its really just all about good common sense and courtesy at the appropriate time. because if everybody was to let a trucker in on the left lane it just would tie up the road even more…… 1979 Oregon State ATA Truck Roadeo Champion

  • Rey Moreno

    Man theres too much hustle being a broker. I brokered almost 100 loads from the seat of my truck in 2008 & 2009. I lauph at brokers now that make the job of brokering so difficult. I had good luck with truck paper, though they send you a paper in the mail once avery two weeks for a year. youll have lots of fire starter hopefully after the sale. Thanks and good luck.

  • Rey Moreno

    Nice title!That was back when they had phneumatic starters and if you blew the tank you had to ask for a glad-hand. Honestly, i am a little choosy too, but you usually know if a fella is gonna be a slow-poke or not when your approaching. I never understood why drivers loiter next to each other. I usally put some throttle in it just to get around and not hold anyone else up. Thank you sir for the comment.

  • George

    I started truckin’ when I turned 21 years of age. Life on the road was much different then. A 23 channel radio was standard equipment. Power steering, air ride seat, and FM radio certainly were not standard. Drivers would wave to one another using all five fingers. Yes, the citizens band radio contributed back then to making the trips “fun”. Hard to believe it was “fun” considering I was lugging 80K around with a 220 Cummins equipped with a partially clogged fuel filter (when I first got the truck).

    The problems of today are much deeper rooted than an occasional slow motorhome. However, we often channel all of our frustrations in a single, misguided direction. Perhaps that RV driver spent way too much time in the “fast lane” of life. Now they are reaping the rewards that we all seem to be racing to achieve. CB communication, to get by that motorhome, will not get to the root of today’s transportation problems.

    Being able to experience that “fun” ride again will require a total overhaul. The entire system needs repair. That includes a thorough exam of what is going on deep inside each one of us. Hope you have a safe ride until we can “wrench” all factors back to factory specs.

  • Rey Moreno

    I am with you there brother. Though, wouldnt you think that communication is a good start? lets provide solutions, instead of just being part of the problem . Thanks for support.

  • Gordon A

    I think Rey hit the nail on the head. The problem is that we don’t see the professionals most of the time.

    A good number of years ago the CB learned some new words and became a potty mouth. The users for the most part were truckers that thought they were incognito and used gutter language every time they keyed the mic.
    They have graduated to no personal pride, no or little self respect . They began to dress like, talk like, and behave like dumpster drivers for all to see.

    Their driving habits have declined to the level that they drive a truck like they do their car, lane hopping, tailgating, aggressive and no courtesy for others anymore. The professional is a dying breed.

    However ,It is not all the drivers fault. Carriers have reduced their standards to dumpster diver level the last few years and the pride in company and self has been reduced to warm a butt in the seat now.

  • Rey Moreno

    Dumpster Drivers, ha ha. Thats a good one. Pretty scary thought. If you try to offer some advice from the elder statehood, then your looked at like a jerk Right? Thats the feeling I get most of the time. Maybe us dying breed should put some kind of easily recognizable symbol on the truck so we can promote the fraturnity of old school ways of doing business. What do you think?

  • Joe Tank

    Well, I have to say, One thing. 4 wheelers Are just that. The Interstate was designed for moving freight from point A to B. That is the main reason we have them. So why are the 4 wheels speeds in most states 10MPH higher than trucks?

    4 Wheeler drivers don’t know how to merge onto a highway for one thing, Highway speed is 75 they will merge right out in front of a Tractor Trailer doing 40mph and then wonder why they almost get ran off the road.

    I see people in their cars holding their phones to their ears while the police drive right on by. $ wheelers cutting off other vehicles.

    If the police were out doing their job a lot of this would not be going on. We have DOT Policing us all of the time. Who is policing the 4 wheelers to ensure they do what should be done… No one that is the problem.

  • Rey Moreno

    I agree that there is a stong imbalance made by law enforcement. I imagine it has to do with money and the improvement of ones carieer. I have to calm my anger every day from the overwhelming feelings of being unfairly picked on by law enforcement. Thanks for the honest comments.

  • Dr Duke

    The Roadmasters ride again?

  • Devorah

    Some wonderful suggestions here that would make the roads safer for everyone.

  • Jon McLaughlin

    10-4 on the idle idiot chatter on 19. These new drivers do not know the courtesy of moving up or down a few channels for idle chatter. 19 is a BUSINESS CHANNEL. IT IS A LIFELINE, NOT TO BE ABUSED.
    Unfortunately these newbys trained by Swift, Werner, Schneider, J B Hunt, and numerous other companies really do not teach them anything about courtesy and too little about professionalism.
    Two years ago I threw my CB out the window because I was tired of listening to the old ladies hanging over the back yard fence gossiping, and not letting a driver pass on word of severe traffic conditions.

  • Rey Moreno

    Yes! I like that….RoadMaster. The National Brotherhood of Professional Drivers. A title that means something. If your serious about doing something like that then lets talk.

  • mousekiller

    I still have my RoadMasters membership card.from the good ol days.
    Lots of memories acquired over 45 years behind the wheel and still going full time.