Veteran trucker pens open letter to car drivers
A Reddit user and veteran trucker shared an open letter to car drivers to let them know about how dangerous their bad driving habits really are.
In a letter shared to the LifeProTips subReddit entitled “LPT: Open letter to car drivers from a part-time truck driver“, user u/stbb lays some serious truth on car drivers about how cutting off, crowding, and tailgating trucks can have deadly consequences.
You can read the post below:
“I have a CDL and have been driving trucks off and on for the last 22 years. I drive straight trucks, which means they are not articulated like the “typical” 18 wheelers. But they can be just as heavy and just as dangerous. The past couple years I’ve driven a particular truck across the country from East to West, North to South. I tell you I’m part time because it’s not my profession; it’s just a skill. My day job is actually quite different than what you’d expect. I do this for fun and extra money. The fun is getting to see the countryside from a very comfortable seat 10′ off the ground. The extra money pays for really cool vacations and toys because it’s significant disposable income. I have logged more than a million miles between cars and trucks in my 40+yrs on this earth, with the vast majority of those in cars. I just want to qualify my background before I give my thoughts after returning from an East to West trip this past week, and how I so badly wish I could have communicated to drivers on the road. For many truckers, this is sort of a wish-list. For many immature readers, you’ll dismiss much of what I say because you think you’re cool or smart or whatever. But I truly hope you read and take away from this. I mean everything I say with sincerity.
On city streets and off the interstate, if a truck is turning, stop and give it room. Be patient. If it gets stuck trying to make a turn because you cut it off, wouldn’t move, or tried to drive under it, I assure you you’re going to wait a lot longer for it to get moving again than you would have by simply giving it some room and time to navigate.
When you’re on the highway, and you come up on a slower moving truck, don’t tailgate it. You can’t see around it, you don’t know why they’re driving slowly, and you won’t succeed in trying to move it with your car. And if you happen to hit it, there’s a chance the truck won’t even move, so you could wreck and the driver would never know.
Again on the highway, please for the love of all humanity, don’t cut off a truck by leapfrogging it and jumping between it and the car or truck it is following. You’re going to scare the hell out of the driver, and you are taking a stupid risk in getting crushed if anything goes wrong with the truck we’re driving. Plenty of times I was in the passing lane following another vehicle as we passed a slower one, and someone would come up the right lane and try to butt in and get ahead. One guy tried to push me with his little 4 door Jeep Wrangler. Seriously, he tried coming over on my lane, hand out the window giving me the finger, trying to get me to slow down so he could cut in front. I didn’t budge, but he kept trying to “occupy” my lane. He was taking his life and that of his passengers into foolish territory, because the truck I was in is 60,000 pounds. It would have rolled right over the Jeep. Some of you are thinking “You should have slowed down and let him over.” Ok, so now you’re the car behind me who is tailgating me, and I slow down to let this impatient guy cut me off with less than a car length at 70mph. Now you’re slowed down because I’m slowed down, and the cars behind you are slowed down. And if you’re tailgating me, you’re probably going to wreck horribly if the guy in front of me does manage to get under my wheels. And all this because some douche thought he was better than everyone in the left lane, and rode out the right lane to pass everyone else. If we all come to a stop 30 miles down the road, I assure you, that guy would have gained about 10 car lengths on me. Look at the risks he took for such a small accomplishment.
Just because our trucks are large doesn’t mean we’re going slow or that we can stop. This is probably the most common mistake in non-trucker thinking, and it’s likely because you don’t understand why trucks have a hard time stopping. 60,000lb trucks cannot. We have air brakes, and if you cause us to use our air up and not recharge quickly, we have no brakes for the next stop. The brakes can overheat very quickly, and when brakes get hot, they no longer work effectively. Stopping distance is increased significantly. Someone’s gonna die.
When you see a car broken down or stopped on the side of the road, you should really move a lane over. Why? Because people with suicidal thoughts hide on the front of vehicles. Happens more frequently than you’d believe. Jason Aldean, a popular country musician, just had this happen to his crew on a recent tour. Also, someone could be working on a car (fixing a flat, etc) and if you brush up against them, they’re going to die. You’re going to probably wreck after hitting them, and you’ll probably die. Was it so hard to just move over for a split second while you passed? What if some kid is on the other side of the car, and the brain-dead parent who let them out in the first place lost hold of them and they ran into the right lane? Seriously, if you don’t believe this stuff happens, then you’ve not driven enough yet. Also, you could be passing, and the car in the left lane next to you could force you (accidentally) onto the shoulder, and you might hit the parked car. You’re probably gonna die. Again, a split second can make a difference.
If a truck has a turn signal on to move to the left lane, there’s likely a very good reason for it. And one of those reasons is very likely NOT to make your day worse, so please don’t be the jerk who speeds up to cut it off and prevent it from moving over. They’re probably trying to avoid something like a parked car in the emergency lane. Trucks also run on cruise control, and they tend to keep a constant speed except on hills. If a truck is slowed down, it takes a lot more effort to get started going again. Again, the driver is just trying to stay moving. He or she isn’t trying to give you a hard time. You can regain your speed in a matter of a few seconds. Trucks take a lot more energy and time to do the same.
About that cruise control, a lot of you need to understand how that works in your own cars. It’s profoundly frustrating to have to leapfrog with cars who can’t hold a constant speed. I mean, you really have no idea. About the only thing I can think of here is like trying to pass someone on foot in a crowded airport as you are running to catch a connector, and the people in front of you keep moving left and right, oblivious to you behind them, and you can’t get around. I know it’s not the exact same, but you know how irritating that is, right? Passing a truck and slowing down so they have to pass you is profoundly worse.
Do not (and I can’t stress this enough) ride alongside a truck, ever. Scenario: You’re in the left lane trying to pass a truck in the right. If there’s a car in front of you, and you’re both not passing the truck quickly, and you’re sort of “lingering” waiting for the a*&hat in front of you to move on, you’re in the kill zone. Two horrible things can happen. First and most obvious, if the truck loses control or has to change lanes quickly, you’re going to get crushed because the truck has nowhere else to go. You’re the path of least resistance. You’re probably gonna die. Second is that trucks tend to have tire blowouts. If you’ve never seen the power of a truck tire blowout, take a minute to look up such videos on Youtube. It may scare the shit out of you from the comfort of your chair right now. And if it scares the shit out of you while you’re behind the wheel, you will lose control of your own car and drive under the rig or off the road. It’s exactly like hearing a bomb go off, and sometimes the tire exits the truck with such force that it will knock a car off the road. Your reaction skills likely will not save you. Many times, the truck can lose control and crash. It always swerves right before the worst, and if you’re in that kill zone, you’re going out with it. So either pass the truck very fast, or lay back with enough room to avoid the truck if it has a blowout, then pass it quickly once the car in front of you moves.
If you’re too lazy to search on your own, here’s a video of a truck getting a blowout, losing control, and killing the driver [Editor’s Note: The video referenced has been removed from YouTube]. If you’re on the side of the truck when this happens, you’re going to get a cross on the side of the road right next to theirs. Take a look at the interstate and take note of the rubber pieces you see in the lanes and on the shoulders. They’re referred to as gators, because broken tire pieces are long and skinny like a gator, and they weigh an awful lot–sometimes as much as an alligator. Take note of the skid marks on the highways, the areas where you know a wreck took place. Someone got hurt where you see that. And it can happen to you.
Most truckers are great drivers. They care about doing their jobs safely because if they don’t, people will die, namely them. And they are making a meager living doing so. A wreck can ruin their career. There are the random few who screw it up for the rest and give a bad name. But the majority are very careful. I just hope you take note of the roads when you’re on them in the future. I’m convinced some folks just don’t know any better because nobody taught them. Pass this sort of thing along to your friends. It’s just common sense.
[Edit] Trucks pass slowly because most are speed-governed to below the speed limit. If the truck is a nationally known name (Swift, Wal Mart, Yellow Freight, etc), it’s on GPS, is tracked by the 1/10th of a mile by someone at a computer console, and is speed limited). Drivers can be fired for breaking rules. I’m glad so many of you are seeing this for what it is–an opportunity to learn about something you may not have known before now. Perhaps it will save some of you one day. Yeah, it’s a long essay, but a lot of this can’t be summed up easily.
[Edit] Regarding air brakes, they do lock up in the “full brake” position when air is depleted, so pardon my incorrect explanation.
TL;DR. Read the above, or one day you may be a stain on the highway because you’re too impatient to read a few paragraphs in Reddit. And you’d likely be the impatient driver I refer to.“
Do you agree with this driver’s assessment? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and pass this along to your non-trucking friends.