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Twin Cities driving.

Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

The Drive: Truckers, respect is a two-way street

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW
  • Star Tribune
  • June 1, 2014 - 5:50 PM

Last month’s column on semitrailer truck drivers wanting respect from motorists drew a wave of calls and e-mails from readers who want the same treatment from big-rig drivers, and they shared more than a few gripes about their interactions with eighteen-wheelers.

They told the Drive that respect has to be a two-way street and that truck drivers need to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Motorists’ irks with truck drivers include those who tailgate, speed, and weave in and out of traffic and cut off other drivers. Their biggest pet peeve: trucks that amble along in the left lane and impede faster-moving traffic.

“Truckers in cruise control pull out in front of drivers in the left lane to pass another truck while maybe going 1 to 2 miles an hour faster than the truck being passed. They don’t speed up to pass, they just stay locked in cruise control” while cars stack up behind them, said Donald McCormick. “This is a very common occurrence where truckers, because of the size of their rigs, just bully the cars. They should wait until they have clear opportunity to pass without interfering with so many other drivers.”

Another reader decried truckers who use the size of their vehicles to intimidate motorists. He said speeding truckers have tailgated him as he drove the speed limit in the right lane on I-694 in the ­northern suburbs.

Owen Hall, of St. Paul, works for UPS and said he’s seen his fair share of truck drivers who are disrespectful, aggressive or rude, too. That adds to the animosity that exists between truckers and ­motorists.

“A lot of [truck] drivers create their own problems,” he said of his fellow truckers. “They [truckers] are not great drivers. They are no different from other drivers. They are not better or worse. They are average drivers with the same conditions and same distractions.”

Dangerous relationship

While far from innocent, truckers’ plea for respect should not go unheeded. Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration have shown that a car driver’s behavior was more than three times as likely to contribute to a fatal crash involving a truck than was the truck ­driver’s behavior.

In 2012, there were 3,789 crashes involving trucks in Minnesota, resulting in 56 deaths and 1,178 injuries, according to the Department of Public Safety. The top five reasons for crashes: driver inattention or distraction, improper or unsafe lane use, failure to yield right of way, following too close and unsafe speed.

“I have no sympathy for the cars who do not drive properly around trucks, but responsibility works both ways,” said Ron Bongard of Eagan.

The trucking industry is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. Nearly 70 percent of all the freight tonnage moved in the United States goes on trucks, according to the American Trucking Association, an advocacy group for the trucking industry. As the economy continues to expand, expect to see more trucks on the road. That means we all have to get along.

So here is some advice for all drivers of motorcycle, cars, buses and trucks from the Operation Safe Driver initiative of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance: “Learn the proper way to drive in a cooperative manner and the safer we all will be.”

 

Online: Follow news about traffic at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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