Saturday, May 31, 2008

Trucking and Patience

Well. I am sitting in Oakley KS at the T/A in the truck wash line at Blue Beacon, actually paying for internet access. Because I'm bored and don't have any reading material.

This day has not been a stellar day for the image truckers give the public. I may have contributed to that negative effect as well.

It all started this morning in Colby, KS. I had spent the night at the Super 8, north of the I70 interchange. So, I'm headed down a four lane street south to get to the eastbound entrance ramp. A truck pulled right out in front of me, and swung into my left lane. Obviously, he was afraid his trailing trailer needed the extra room, because he kept his turn going to get on the westbound ramp.

I thought perhaps the brush with mortality I've experienced may have made me more patient and forgiving, but maybe not so much. I got on the radio while he was ponderously and extremely slowly moving in front of me and said: "Yeah, you were really planning on getting out of my way, right?" somewhat sarcastically.

No answer.

The lanes there are just marked on acres of flat pavement, so I drove into the marked median to get around him and eyeball this idiot. He wouldn't look at me. "For God's sake, don't even look at me!"

I had big plans of flipping him off.

Part of trucking is momentum. It takes a while to start and stop a truck. The laws of physics cannot be denied. It is rude to do what this asshole did.

But, I've always been against "Radio Rambos." They are idiots with CB radios found mostly in populated areas who agitate on channel 19. They talk mean but when it comes to backing it up - they refuse to be found. They talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. There are many stories about how several CBers with signal strength meters have tracked these idiots down and messed with their equipment or got physical with them. Generally it is some loser kid, but sometimes it is a loser adult.

I don't want to be a Radio Rambo. I really have no business mixing it up with idiots if I have to back it up, considering the fabulous grip I have. I might even be able to make a fist. Woo hoo. So, that incident kinda bothered me. Other people heard me, and a couple of truckers had seen it and told everyone else what had happened - that the chicken hauler had cut off the flatbed (me). I kept my language clean, at any rate.

I trucked more or less locally for ten years, then worked for the USPS for ten, and am back. In the "old days," truckers had a bit of a code and some honor for their profession. Now, not so much. For instance, when a truck passes another, it is common courtesy to flash headlights to let the passing truck know it is clear and it's safe to move back into the right lane, or to say something on the CB (Yer clear, big truck). Now, only in your dreams.

Or, and this pisses off many of you "four wheelers" as well - Mr. Werner Enterprises is speed limited to 65mph, and catches Mr. Swift Trucking set at 64, and decides to pass. Mr. Werner decides to cut over into the left lane in front of you, running at 75mph, the speed limit, just as you get to his DOT bumper. They then climb a hill, and Mr. Swift can outpull Mr. Werner, so this exciting side by side race can take several minutes to determine the outcome.

The correct "professional trucker code" solution is for Mr. Werner to wait until traffic gets past before making his big move. Mr. Swift, seeing Mr. Werner coming, would realize he is holding Mr. Werner up and be ready to "back out of it" to help Mr. Werner out. This would have been all worked out on the handy communication device that most all trucks have had for the past fifty years - the CB radio.

Now, say it after me, "not so much."

So, what is the problem? Most say the "professional truck driving schools" are to blame. They crank out grads with barely enough experience to shift gears, much less navingate across the country successfully. Things like the trucker's code aren't even covered. Common courtesy is not being taught.

And there is a distinct lack of courtesy in our daily lives as well - it is a given that this is a far ruder society now than twenty years ago.

So, here I sit in line at the Blue Beacon. For some reason a red Mustang was in line ahead of the truck ahead of me. There was a truck, a Ford pickup, the Mustang, a grain hauler, and me in line. The first truck moved, then the pickup, then the grain hauler. The 'Stang? It got moved about ten feet when the grain hauler lost it in his hood. A moment's inattention. It looks like this won't delay me much - the police have taken the report, and we've all moved ahead.

Pay attention out there, people. Trucks win in accidents involving cars. The laws of physics cannot be repealed.

6 comments:

Jerry said...

Jeffro,
As you know Indiana is a big trucking state. Crossroads of America, it is. Nothing ticks me off more than spending time behind two semis trying to pass each other. There always ends up a big stack of cars in the left lane behind the passing truck. I just stay in the right lane behind the slower truck, until the second truck and all his backed up cars are all passed. I think I've listened to an entire CD during one such road adventure.

A related note. I-70 and I-65 need to three lanes wide for the entire stretch through Indiana.

Jeffro said...

I'm not wild about the different speed limits for trucks in Indiana, or any where else for that matter. Most of the slow el cheapo freight haulers can't run 70 anyways, so the speed differential isn't that far apart. Illinois - not so much.

I've been on I70 to Indy and I65 from about Remington to Michigan, and I'd agree - there is too much traffic. It's not nearly as bad as I35E and W in the DFW area, or even as bad as I70 west of Denver. Just imagine your traffic but on winding, twisty roads. As far as cities I'll avoid forever - I'll refuse to go to Houston. The people driving suck, the traffic sucks, and the weather sucks in the summer. I have left nothing there I need to go back for.

Most of our trucks are limited to 78mph on cruise, and 80 on the throttle. We've generally got the power to run that fast loaded or empty as well, unless it is very windy. Wind resistance on wide loads is a killer.

It's all just a matter of courtesy, and that isn't much in vogue anymore. Someday, I'll post my pet peeves about fellow drivers sharing the road - it's just gonna take a while to remember all the little things that piss me off.

RT said...

I hate when a truck pulls in front of me (when nothing was in his lane to begin with) and slows down, and then forces me to get into the left lane, blow the speed limit and pass him.

I always work with the trucks so that they can get where they are going (too many truck drivers in my family to not know the etiquette).

threecollie said...

I have noticed just what you said over the past few years. A couple of distribution centers from the big chain stores have opened in the area so we see six hundred trucks a day through our tiny one horse town. Not so very long ago most of the truckers you met skillfully tooled their rigs around the corners so neatly that you might be gasping in amazement, but you felt safe. Now you are gasping in terror that they might just run over your hood where you are helplessly waiting at a red light...and, sure enough, most of the scary ones are kids that don't even look old enough to smoke.
And the truckers used to flash their lights even to plain old pick up trucks, when they were clear when passing. That hasn't happened to me in years!

ptg said...

I drive like a little old lady, so I always try to let the big cats know when its OK to pull over after they pass. Especially when they have a mess of antsy little commuters inches behind them, or in the rain. Its always nice to get an acknowledgment flash.

Bob said...

I'll heed your advice.