Beyond the Numbers

When Truckers News polled its readers earlier this year on the most difficult aspects of interstate hauling, 83 percent picked either split speed limits or lane restrictions. A large number of the truckers we interviewed said when combined, these regulations can be deadly.

In some states there is as much as a 15-mph difference between maximum speed limits for cars and trucks on rural interstates, and a 10-mph discrepancy on urban freeways. Drivers said when you throw in the right-hand lane restrictions for trucks – the very lane(s) where people are trying to enter and exit the interstates – a lot of bad things can, and do, happen. The most critical is rear-end collisions.

The truckers’ responses were almost all the same. “Divided speeds are dangerous,” says Shay Turner of San Antonio. “It’s terrible,” says Bob Gobar of Hazen, N.D. “I don’t understand lane restrictions.”

Truckers feel penalized because, even though they often have more driving experience than the average commuter, they are boxed into a situation where they bear a heavier burden when other drivers make careless mistakes. When a four-wheeler darts between two rigs from the hammer lane to exit the interstate and incorrectly judges the speed of the slower trucks, it is usually up to the truckers to avoid a catastrophe.

“It’s in the public’s best interest for us to not be in the lane where people are jumping on and off the interstate and cutting in front of you,” says Gobar. “For Tom Local, it’s a whole lot better for him not to have to compete with big trucks in the right lane. They should let us run the middle lane on the wider-lane roads and stay out of the right lane. Most of the trucks are through-traffic anyway. It’s really common-sense stuff.”

What truckers told this magazine isn’t anything new. It’s what they’ve been saying for a long time: They want more practical laws to make the highways safer for everyone. Most of all, they don’t want to bear total responsibility for the entire driving public when they are often obeying laws they feel put them at a distinct disadvantage.

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For our survey (see pages 25-27), drivers were also asked which states are most and least trucking-friendly in terms of regulations and law enforcement, as well as which states have the best and worst overnight parking. States with more stringent enforcement policies ranked least trucking-friendly in spite of statistics that show some of those states have improving safety numbers because of better policing practices.

Most of the truckers we talked to admit they are not against getting the speeders and unsafe drivers off the roads, but they are against being treated rudely or unprofessionally when pulled over by law enforcement. Most even said the majority of officials are doing a good job. It’s the few members of law enforcement with bad attitudes who, in the minds of some truckers, cast a long shadow over particular regions.

This also holds true for the trucking industry. Drivers who act unprofessionally, drive unsafely or show a negative attitude toward authority hurt the image of those who work hard and bring honor to the profession.

There are no easy answers to solving problems in the trucking industry, but when exploring what regulations are best for drivers, the general motoring public and law enforcement, common sense, compromise and courtesy would no doubt go a long way toward reaching these goals.