What happened to right-lane running? Readers respond

| October 08, 2013

truck on highway odMany of you responded to Thom Jansen, who wrote in wondering just what happened to the old credo of truck drivers to ride in the right lane unless passing — Jansen, who learned such from his father, a trucker and longtime Overdrive reader, expressed no small measure of aggravation finding rigs “clogging up the middle lane.” 

He wanted to know the reason few seemed to mind the old “stay right” credo, asking this question: “Has something changed, or are they just not as “professional” as they once were…?” 

Readers delivered these and other answers:

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Commenting at OverdriveOnline.com 
Gordon Alkire: Yes, Thom, things have changed. It is not all the truckers that have changed. The change is faster, smaller cars. Less driving skill is the norm for drivers of all vehicles. Likewise not having to take responsibility for actions. Traffic is heavier and tempers are less-controlled. If I’m on at least a three-lane, I will not drive in the right lane if in town or near several exits. Far too many idiots will cut in front to take an exit because they cannot follow a truck for 500 feet before they exit. Merging is another story. Few drivers of all vehicles know how to merge. They bull their way into traffic instead of merging properly, seldom use turn signals, and if you don’t move over they think you’re the bad guy. I try to avoid these types of drivers as much as I can. That is the basic reason I do not stay in the right lane unless the law states otherwise.

Brad Lambert: I could understand your complaint when the traffic is very light and a truck is in the middle and/or fast lane. During rush hour I will stand up for the truck driver — we get out there to get out of the way of all the vehicles getting on and off the highway. To say you have a father that was a truck driver is not good enough — you have to spend three weeks in the seat of a truck driver and you will understand.

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Karen Moore: Usually the right lane is so rough I get tired of getting beat to death, so I run in the left lane — as long as I can maintain the speed limit.

Jimmy Nevarez: The right lane is the lane with the most resistance and creates an unsafe position for a truck who needs to leave an “out,” especially in the case of a split-limit state.

Nelson Arnold: With three lanes through a metro area, the middle lane means less slowing down and speeding up for merging traffic that does not understand the concept of merging.

Reader George Anis responded further, with this well-considered explanation:

Thom, I have been driving a tractor-trailer for the past 17 years, and I will tell you what has changed. The ambient driving environment on the highway is not conducive to the “Horse and Buggy” mentality that you are attempting to apply in your letter. There are a lot more cars and not so many trucks (due to increased intermodal usage) on the road today. There are also a lot more work zones and lane closures due to road construction that hinder the flow of traffic.

The so-called truckers that you refer to as “driving down the middle lane of the highway for miles” are doing so to avoid conflicts with the carefree, shopping-mall-cruising four-wheelers who never yield upon entering a highway. 

Without so much as a casual glance in their side-mirrors, these highly-skilled car drivers wait until they are at the “point of no return” on an on-ramp before they realize that they are about to run into an 18-wheeler passing the ramp. The truck is unable to change lanes due to another skilled car driver quickly moving to block it.

We are also in the middle lane to navigate past the increasing amount of vehicles (car and truck) that seem to demonstrate an increased propensity for pulling over on the shoulder of the road for every little thing. A breakdown is a breakdown. You can’t blame people for random misfortune. However, I see cars on the shoulder to change drivers, to get items from the backseat or the trunk and other things that could wait until the next off-ramp or rest area.

Lets get down to the crux of the matter, the real reason for Mr. Jansen’s letter. “During the rush hour, it’s aggravating to find them clogging up the middle lane, which results in other drivers (presumably cars) passing them on both the right and left side. Whenever I see them in the middle lane, I usually think they are not real truck drivers….” Enough, Mr. Jansen, you just don’t understand the fundamental differences between a car and a truck, so you don’t get it. Here are some quick comparisons between a car and a truck, that I hope will enlighten you and put things in proper perspective:

*Able to accelerate rapidly, on-demand
*Able to abruptly change lanes with little or no forewarning, in close spaces
*Driver believe they have some sort of right-of-way, over trucks

*Once brakes are applied, very slow to accelerate back to highway speed due to gear shifts
*Driver must make sure that cars around him will permit a lane change, so as not to hit anyone
*Know that they have equal right to safely use the highway with cars

As a professional tractor-trailer driver, I confess that I am one of those annoying trucks in the middle lane, trying hard to avoid conflicts and stopping in the right lane during your morning rush hour traffic. Although I am traveling at or above the speed limit for the roadway, you are annoyed that I am “clogging up” the highway with my large vehicle (that you can’t see around). This is because car drivers think that it is OK to do whatever is necessary to get to work quickly, especially speeding on the highway, then cutting across three lanes of the highway at the last minute, to get off at their exit. The slow-moving truck (slower than the cars) in the middle lane prevents that expedience. I’m sorry I annoy you.

I have good news for you, Mr. Jansen. The FMCSA, in their infinite wisdom, was also inconsiderate of your needs when they recently modified the hours of service regulations. Now in order to reset their hours every week, many of the annoying trucks that used to drive at night will be right there on the highway with you in the morning. They have changed to daytime driving so they can continue earning a living six days a week.

The good news is I’ll be out there too! Maybe we can stop for coffee at Tim Horton’s some morning? I’ll buy. –George Anis, Professional Truck Driver

  • mc661419 sunshine driven

    I understand what thom is talking about he is talking about the drivers who stay in the middle lane when there is NO traffic and NOT doing the speed limit
    so we come up to a truck in the middle lane doing 50 mph in a 65 and wont move back over to the right lane. and we have all encounted these types of drivers give thom some credit I believe in the beginning of his article he let it be known that he was taught by his father.

    the is a lot of NO COMMON SENSE anymore out there

  • Monk

    I was always taught Two Hands on the wheel or you got a careless driving ticket

  • MileHIMoose

    Tell Us, ( What Ever Happen To The Monfort Lane )? For you younger boys and girls. As the story goes. No one ever saw the Left Hand Side, of a Monfort Truck.
    The named The Left Hand Lane, ( The Monfort Lane ) !!
    Posted in Memory of: Elinor Zoleman: ( Butterfingers ) !

  • Castaway50

    Ahhh yes, the Monfort and McClain lanes!! I remember them well. What’s really aggravating is being out in the middle lane to find a 4-wheeler taking up space refusing to move over out of the way. Seen alot of them on I-75 through Georgia and Florida. And you can’t get in the left lane to pass them so you’re stuck until someone or something gives!!

  • Ken

    Until further notice, ALL PASSES FOR TRUCKS TO USE THE MIDDLE LANE ALL DAY LONG, have been revoked!
    If there is no traffic in front of you, and someone behind you, get in the right lane out of the way!

  • JohnB

    good catch “mc661419 sunshine driven”

    I wonder what excuse these rolling road blocks use when they’re somewhere between Van Horn and El Paso doing a side by side drag race with their 68mph cruisers?? I realize how scary it must be for them to think about hanging up their phone to concentrate on driving but they really should consider it..

  • TWade

    It’s the same excuse that the want-to-be large car driver has when going uphill and he can’t out pull the JBHunt truck and he refuses to back off and get in behind the other truck. And that excuse is “it’s all about me”.

  • Jimhamon

    Unless you were in a Tom Inman truck…

  • Washington Log Trucker

    How about here in WAshington State as you enter the state it is posted : “Slower truck must use right lane”, but you still see them staying in the middle lane. I haul logs in SW WA and all the encounter this problem and have to finally pass in the right lane.

  • ED

    There is no doubt that staying in the right lane in an area with many exits and entrance ramps very close together in moderate or heavy traffic conditions can be a problem. We all get it. But how come on any given day I will pass more big trucks by having to go into the slow lane. I guess I must be an old timer too, but I was taught the right lane is the slow lane and to keep right except when passing. If I have to go into the right lane to pass somebody, then they should have been in the right lane. I expect this type of driving from clueless people in cars, but for so called Pro’s? The right lane is for the slower traffic especially when the roads don’t have close entrance/exit ramps in heavy traffic. I can’t believe anyone is defending not using the right lane, I guess those guys learned how to drive in Florida or haul containers up and down the Jersey Turnpike.

  • Bill Landsborough

    Almost all of the near misses I have had driving truck have been when I was in the right lane and people were cutting in front of me coming on or getting off of the freeway. Through Portland, Oregon southbound on I-5, you get through town twice as fast if you drive in the far left lane. Twice! Once I would get clear of the congestion I would immediately pull over to the right lane and continue on. And driving over Snoqualamie Pass, if you are in the right lane, you are going to take a beating. The road is so torn up due to construction and lack of funding, it is violent.

  • 5Herb7

    I notice this much less of an issue when there are more than two lanes and trucks are allowed to use all lanes.. Forcing trucks to use only the right or two right lanes regardless of top speed of the truck, is ridicules.It it stressful as well to have to be in constant conflict with vehicles trying to enter the freeway. Additionally those people who bitch because someone is not passing another truck fast enough need to check themselves. Everybody wants to make the best time possible. If you are only able to go slightly faster than another truck, you still want to get by him. Even a little bit adds up over the long haul. So suck it up, shut up and be patient for a moment. If your truck is that fast you can make up time much easier than the guys trying to pass anyway. Be grateful for what you have and give the poor guy trying to make living in a slower truck a break. Geez!


    Maybe you should pass all this info along to the rocket scientists that force us to start a clock and drive continuously through rush hour traffic, tornados,ice,sleet, road construction, etc without the flexibility now to stop and wait until things are “SAFER.” All in the name of safety…..I THINK NOT. (Please, all you safety people, dont HUMOR us with the “Not forced to drive bullshit.” In this business now you either drive or go home.

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    On roadways with three lanes of traffic and multiple right-hand lane merge points, the safest lane for any truck driver to be in is the center lane.

    Since 80% of all car/truck accidents are the direct fault of careless automobile drivers, and as car drivers no longer know how to correctly use an on-ramp to accelerate and safely merge into the traffic flow, I will continue to drive the center lane of traffic, maintaining my speed and lane.

    And that means observing the posted limit, moving with the flow of traffic, and not impeding other drivers.

    I move left in order to pass on two-lane roads, I always keep to the right lane unless overtaking slower traffic, or am forced to move over to avoid a collision with an automobile driver too busy talking on the phone or texting instead of checking their mirrors in order to safely merge.

    If Mr. Jansen feels the need to exceed the posted limit and pass me, that is his prerogative.

    It is mine to drive in a safe manner, and to stay away from people just like Mr. Jansen, who have never driven a commercial vehicle for a living, but know all about it because his father did.

  • Melanie

    Hi, as a ‘four-wheeler’ I have to say that I don’t mind the big trucks clogging the middle lane. I’d rather a highway full of big trucks than other cars for just the reasons stated: bad drivers. I live in a congested area so I have daily experience with the morons who cannot maintain one speed, cannot merge or change lanes properly, cannot brake without slamming on them, and are too lazy or self-important to acknowledge that there are other vehicles on the road. Melanie

  • Certifiably Nutty

    Crap!! Monfort, hadn’t thought about them in a long time…I remember how excited I would get seeing those circus wagons as a kid passing the house or at the local truck stop in PA…even tried to paint a model to look like the real thing…let’s just say the skills didn’t match up with the imagination. A for effort, F for execution. Now as an adult I have heard some of the tales about them and I wonder which are true and which are “enhanced” truths.

  • william

    i just want to say i have been driving truck for many years .i try to drive at night as much as possible .it is hard to drive in right lane when there are a lot of exits and on ramps because cars dont have time or patients to merge and exit properly .

  • max

    I understand being in the center lane in Metro areas, where the seed limit is lower, but out on the open Interstate where the seed limit is 70, why do you still stay in the middle lane, when your truck can only run 65 or so. If you can’t run the speed limit then don’t stay out there. Most of the driving schools tell their students to stay out there so they don’t have to change lanes and risk hitting someone. Yes, I know what it is like to drive a truck. I have been doing it for 40 years.

  • Todd Nash

    George Anis…..you hit the proverbial nail on the head, way to go! I
    agree with all that you have so eloquently described…us “stupid
    truckers” should not be so literate when describing how things really
    are on the highway.Todd Nash, Owner/Operator

  • Grabba Gear

    I call this a “sign of the times”. I remember growing up as a kid in the 60’s. Back then the police sitting in the median would be looking, chasing down and ticketing those who lived in the left lane. They actively enforced the keep to the right unless passing law back then.
    I haven’t seen a cop do that in many years.
    There is much more traffic on the roads today it seems then back then. And it certainly makes more sense for thru traffic truckers today to move to the center lane while driving through metro areas so that merging and exiting traffic can do so more smoothly.
    I think much of the problem today is most people out there were born and learned to drive after the “passing only” enforcement was lifted, so they don’t respond like people who drove back then…they just pick the left or center lane and live in it.
    The main problem I see with this is that when traffic is packed up going through a metro area you will have those in the left lane cutting past the center lane to get off and people merging from the right in a hurry and cutting across to get in the left lane, which creates a big hazard for all, all the while hating “those big bad truckers” for being in their way without realizing the truckers picked the center lane so they could merge.
    Some of those same people who didn’t grow up back in the enforcement days are now also driving trucks too and never experienced being stopped and cited for living in the left lane (speaking a two laner here)..so there you go, the perfect nightmare.

  • Del Ray Johnson

    Ed, thank you but no thanks the article is correct in the right lane fools do not know how to merge getting on the expressway that is reason alone to stay in the middle lane. Because we know if that fool misjudges the speed of my moving object (rig) and anything goes wrong it is a preventable accident. Again thanks but no thanks!

  • Del Ray Johnson

    Thank you!

  • jon

    The original design to the highway system was for through traffic to be in the far left lane. Cross town traffic in the middle lanes and local traffic in the right lanes.

    Totally as a means to segregate traffic to prevent crossing and inter-mixing traffic in lanes as much as possible. Instead, we have just the opposite.

    That’s really safe.

  • jesse wood

    very good george and well said

  • joeanimal

    hell, when i first moved to California from Nebraska and got on the six lane highway in the right lane i was pulled over for going the speed limit….cop says you new in town…? i said ya…he said out here you keep up with the traffic and gave me a ticket…!


  • David McGaugh

    Oh Mr. Jensen had to make a lane change, that’s too bad. Must have been hard for him to pit down his phone for two seconds, look in his mirror and move over. That truck really put him out I’m sure. Well I ain’t gonna apologize cause if there is more than two lanes you adjust for me. I no longer go out of my way to make every car on the road happy. Mabey next time you should put your car under the trailer and move the big scary truck out of yer way. And incase you were still wondering, yes I am an asshole, but admission is the first step. Thank you for your concern.

  • shawn

    Going through heavy traffic areas I prefer to stay in the middle lane to avoid traffic entering and exiting the highway and trying to stay away from situations that may be a potential accident and although I try to be courteous to most drivers I feel that professionalism has been replaced with the me fist attitude I will slow down to let a faster truck by before pulling out to pass or slow down or speed up to keep from boxing another driver in behind slower traffic. A professional will look far enough ahead to see situations come up he or she needs to adjust for or check the mirrors for traffic coming up behind. I don’t want to be the kind of person who complains about the four wheelers and drives just like them. So when I move out of your way or try to show you a little respect and courtesy you thank the other old drivers who have earned the right to be called professionals and if you drive like a four wheeler maybe you should just stay in a four wheeler courtesy dose not cost us anything, but the lack of it is costing us much

  • Chris Vintson

    George Anis, I am going to agree with you, theres no since in running in the right lane, because of Bad roads, slow four wheelers, four wheelers pulling on the side of the road just to Text on the phone, and the exits are endless oh yeah the on coming traffic that expects you to slow down and let them on the enter state when your running the Posted speed limit which is normally 70mph, whats a driver todo these days.

  • john3347

    All my Safety Directors during my trucking career harped on the rule that “If you get passed on the right, you’re in the wrong lane!”. This is still the appropriate thinking. Slower traffic keep right. This is the most basic rule of traffic flow. This applies equally to motorcycles, automobiles, and trucks.

  • kim

    thankyou George for your well thought out response
    I wish every 4 wheeler could read it

  • SemperFi

    WOW, I still can’t believe this guy actually felt compelled to ask this dumbass question. I run in either the middle or #3 lane whenever possible- unless if I’m driving in BFE- because I hate slamming on the brakes because some idiot in a Prius doesn’t want to merge onto the freeway at hiway speeds LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO. Then when I give them the air horn, THEY slam on the brakes- next thing you know where both going friggin 30 mph, and I say the hell with it, start grabbing gears and push the idiot onto the shoulder. I ain’t got time to play silly games…..

  • Bill

    Hi, as a tractor trailer driver of 35 years, I have seen a lot of changes. Mostly in the consideration of drivers in general. Lately it seems like the truck drivers are playing catch-up to the “four wheeler” mentality. NOW, this may be because I do most of my driving in the northeast. I can understand say on I-95 in southern Ct.,where exits are 1/2 mile apart. But when I am behind Mr. Company Driver in the middle lane @ 62 in 65,and ask on the radio if I may be excused, I usually get…F…You, if you need to, pass on the right. This starts a much more dangerous effect on the idea, that is if it is for safety.In my opinion, CONSIDERATION has went down the tubes.
    YES I know the thing about opinions.

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