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That truck driver you flipped off? Let me tell you his story. (startribune.com)
616 points by there 2035 days ago | hide | past | web | 286 comments | favorite



If a truck driver (or anyone on the road) gets flipped off, it is usually because they are driving a huge vehicle too aggressively and dangerously.

If his sister died, or he's getting paid peanuts, he still has to drive respectfully and safely to avoid causing any OTHER people on the road to die.

Also, I don't think the financial information is correct. I've spoken with truckers in the past and many are making around $40k per year (hearsay), which isn't that shabby for the lifestyle.

Lastly, welcome to life. Guess what. Work is hard, people are mean, and most jobs become frustrating if you are in them long enough, and everyone has personal problems.

I'm not saying that it's OK to flip someone off, but I understand the helplessness of being in your vehicle with your family and almost getting run off the road by some trucker who seems to be "numb" to the fact that they are driving an enormous and deadly machine 70mph down the highway.

EDIT: Not sure why I'm getting down-voted, perhaps a few rebuttals in the comments??


My father's been a truck driver for nearly as long as I can remember and I can tell you, a lot of what's in this article is generally correct and a lot of it is only correct for some drivers, but none of it is total bullshit.

I've known a number of truck drivers and I've seen even more than that. Generally speaking, as a group, they are better drivers and more aware of the road than the average driver on the road. Not all of them are, and some of them do make stupid mistakes or drive dangerously. Sadly, from what I've seen, even the safest ones get flipped off and honked at just because the car driving too closely behind them apparently thinks the truck should be driving faster.

The financial information is pretty spot-on. Some truck drivers are making $40K (or even more than that!). The shabbiness of this depends on where they're based, of course, but it can be pretty comfortable. Some drivers make significantly less than $40K. It's a function of mileage and experience, for the most part. I'd say $500/wk is probably lower than average, but it's certainly not unheard of. Especially right now (I hate the phrase "in the current economic climate", but it's kind of relevant right now) loads are getting harder and harder to come by and the further ones tend to be the first that go. The miles just aren't there and this can kill the driver's family's finances.

Really, when it comes down to it, if a driver runs you off the road, call the number on the back of the truck (please, have a passenger do it if there's one in the car). But if a truck is just slowing you down a little bit, I know you in particular may know that there's no cause to flip anyone off, but this knowledge seems to be lacking in some people on the road.


Most people don't drive defensively, courteously, or safely. When they drive around big vehicles their bad habits just amplify the consequences. It's pretty typical for people to drive in a truck's blind spots by either following too close behind or driving where the mirror's don't have much coverage. Also, many drivers don't seem to understand that trucks have different limitations in driving than cars. Typically I try to avoid driving just behind a truck (even in a neighboring lane) and I try to avoid being side by side with a truck for long.

In my experience truck drivers are generally better drivers than the average non truck driver, but they certainly aren't perfect as a group.


the one thing almost EVERYONE seems to forget is there's a lot of space in between that truck and the car in front of him for a reason - he needs more space to stop than that little car. Don't squeeze your vehicle in that space, give him room, then get over so that when you have to slam on the brakes for the exit you almost missed, he'll have room to not rear-end you.


I've always suspected there ought to be a physics portion on the driving exam.


Besides being dangerous, following a truck too closely will destroy the paint on your car because they throw so many rocks up.


Or your windshield (I replaced my windshield last summer, and almost immediately had it dented by a rock from a truck).


I wouldn't call anybody because a truck drives slower than traffic but I would have called somebody if he is ever in anything but the right lane on the free way.

It is not to go slow in. It is to go fast.

And really flipping people of is the least you can do.


At least in CA, trucks can drive in either of the right two lanes in a road with 4 or more lanes in the same direction, and can always pass on the left regardless of the number of lanes.

And just as an FYI: doing nothing is the least you can do. Flipping someone off is nearly the most you can do if you stay in your car & don't endanger the lives of those involved.


>people are mean

yes, you made it obvious without need to state it explicitly.

Driving a fast, maneuverable and small, compare to a truck, car, i have no problem to accommodate for their much slow and less maneuverable dynamic, just pay attention to what they are doing or intend to do - they are pretty good and accurate drivers and signal their maneuvers in advance.

It isn't trucks who are menace on the road, it is flipping off jerks in cars.


> It isn't trucks who are menace on the road, it is flipping off jerks in cars.

The article states:

- The driver may be "numb".

- He is in emotional distress.

- He has skipped meals

- He has been driving the better half of 14 hours.

THIS is my beef.

There is NO EXCUSE for putting others in danger on the road, and instead of flipping him off, the state police should have been notified maybe, but to say we should just relax is out of line.

I'd argue that NOBODY should be driving under these conditions, let alone a truck driver.


"- He has skipped meals"

Recently watched a BBC documentary on truck drivers in USA. Apparently majority of truck drivers are constipated. They prefer to eat stuff they can hold in one hand while driving with the other - like beef jerky, cheese sticks, instead of salads. The docu said the average US truck driver visits the restroom only once in 3-4 days. To prove this assertion, they had a group of East-West truck drivers swallow a tiny camera that transmitted pictures of their colon until it was ejected. It was quite gross, vivid and very conclusive evidence. They then had half the group switch to a diet of canned veggies - peas-in-a-can, carrots-in-a-can etc. The truck drivers ended up visiting the restroom 2-3 times per day, were much lighter physically, and a lot more relaxed, chatty and fun.

It was on Discovery I think...if you have a link pls post.


Y'know, I personally would have believed the self-reported pooping frequency, I didn't really need four days of colon footage.


science likes its proof no matter how messy


The fundamental problem is that we have completely inadequate rail infrastructure in the US. Why is it that everything has to go by truck? Trucks are extremely inefficient compared to trains, and are much more likely to be involved in traffic accidents, create congestion on our freeways, and damage our roads requiring tax dollars to repair.

Too many trucks and fatigued drivers is a symptom of the greater problem, which is inadequate rail infrastructure.


Source?

The Economist claims that the US has the best freight rail infrastructure in the world:

http://www.economist.com/node/16636101

The "fundamental problem" is probably that America is a really big country, and there are lots of livable places in the US that are far from other population centers.


"best freight rail infrastructure in the world" and "completely inadequate rail infrastructure" are, sadly, not mutually exclusive.


Well, another fundamental problem is the US government subsidies trucks by providing them with roads. Railroads have to make their own tracks.

Truck and cars do pay taxes but they don't pay sufficient taxes to pay the entire cost of roads (http://moderntransit.org/letters/budget.html).


Cars don't pay enough...trucks do. Not to mention trucks are providing a service that cannot be done effectively by cars or trains.

Railroads make plenty of money on owning the tracks otherwise I doubt they would still be doing it.


On the other hand, railroads don't make enough money owning the tracks to make a significant investment in expanding the rail network.


> The Economist claims that the US has the best freight rail infrastructure in the world

We're talking about the greatest country on Earth. Even with the best freight rail infrastructure in the world, it may still not be up to American standards.


I'm not sure how many people living outside of the US would actually consider it to be the 'greatest country on Earth'. I certainly don't want to live there...

Not sure if this is just a troll actually. If so, good job I guess.


While it may be hip on the net to trash our country, if you ask an average person in a developing country where they want to go, they will invariably want to come here. Even in China, who everyone is waiting for with bated breath to overtake America, people want to come here.


Maybe in developing countries, but that's not the attitude in other first world countries, because they've pretty much all got it better than we do.


Having been to quite a few other first world countries (Europe and Canada) and having relatives there, I would say that the upper middle class life is most definitely not better anywhere else. In America, you can get a nice big house, a nice big car, and have a comfortable life.

For example, I'm in Japan right now, and I miss the central air conditioning (here they have boxed air conditioners in select rooms instead). I miss the ridiculously cheap prices for just about anything I might want to buy. But most of all, while there are certainly advantages to having a convenient public transit system, I have to say that I miss having the wide open road before me and the sweet feeling of metal roaring to go beneath my feet.

Of course, things may be different for the poor, since they certainly have it pretty bad in America, but I am fortunate enough to have never known poverty.


We actually have a pretty good cargo rail network in the US (compare to Europe where passenger rail is better but not cargo). The US is spread out and trucks are it. They do pay quite a bit of fuel tax, and I am not sure it is the trucks themselves that create the problem. I see a lot of non-truck drivers that cause more congestion.


I used to work at a company that worked in Logistics. I don't know if it's gotten better, but at least at that point there really was no good solution for multi-modal loads. If you wanted to go truck->train->truck, you were on your own for arranging all of the details. It was far easier to just use a truck from point to point than the other solutions.

It might have improved in the last 10 years though :)


Yeah, railroads were the most screwed up business in the USA for a long while (I got a story about a "missing" soybean car that is truly unbelievable), but they have actually gotten quite a bit better in the last decade. Some of the railroads now have agreements with different trucks to do complete run. I haven't been near the industry in 3 years, but I know it was getting much nicer than before 2001.


Why would it?

Railroads essentially operate monopolies on transport within a given region, and we're against regulation these days. Plus, those pesky workers know that, so they do inconvenient things like form unions and demand concessions.

So instead, we build a giant taxpayer-funded road system, which in turn results in sprawl, which requires yet more road systems.


Aren't trucks much more flexible than trains? Roads are already here, they're everywhere, and they go everywhere. Rails would have to be built, and even if they were, they would never be as extensive as roads are.

Assuming comparable existing infrastructure, trains might be more efficient, but isn't it much more efficient to use the existing infrastructure, to the point that it mitigates the efficiency of a train?


http://www.progressiverailroading.com/news/article.asp?id=16...

According to that 2008 source (which appears to be pro-railroad) freight rail is up to four times more fuel-efficient per ton of freight delivered than freight trucking.


Exactly. What really needs to happen is for some state to man up and flat out ban trucks on all state roads travelling more that say 50 or so miles.


What are you going to do about the areas that are more than 50 miles from a train depot? Haul it in several smaller vehicles? Sounds efficient...whats better 60,000 lbs hauled at 8MPG in one truck or 10,000lbs hauled at 15MPG in 6 vehicles.

There is a reason we are still using trucks...good luck without them.


50 miles everywhere should be sufficient to get it to a train yard. The number could be increased for western states perhaps.


Western states? How about eastern states?

I think you really underestimate how big this country is and how small a 50-mile radius is. That kind of coverage would be absolutely impossible to do.

Hence, trucks.


You're not terribly familar with the existing freight infrastructure in the east coast then.

Look at a map of Pennsylvania, one of the larger and more sparse eastern states. 50 miles from any point will get you to Erie, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, etc. All of which you can ship and receive freight by train from.

And that is a bad example of a state where it could work. Try looking at Jersey instead!


THIS is my beef. There is NO EXCUSE for putting others in danger on the road

The sky is not falling, it is not as bad as you think.

If there is no excuse to put others in any danger on the road, you should never, ever, take your own car on the road. Every time anyone drives, there is risk involved.

You're over reacting, chill out. You're not weighing risk rationally. A 12hr strait shot is by no means fun but its not something thats going to significantly deteriorate a driver's ability to the level your post would warrant. An experienced trucker is probably a better driver better than you in his sleep.


Actually, you're the one that's being irrational. Driver's ED manuals recommends taking a break of 15 minutes every two hours, precisely because driving skills deteriorate quickly with fatigue. No amount of experience will make up for it.

e: http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/dmanual/chapter08-manual.htm#dr..., is it that hard to believe that people make mistakes when they're tired?


I never said it was perfect, just that it wasn't as bad as the gp thought. However, the 15 min every 2 hours is a recommendation, and over the top safety. The page really seems geard towards saying awake And no, its not hard for me to believe people make mistakes when tired, I know people who have totaled cars because they fell asleep. However, I assume (and know anecdotaly) that for someone for whom driving long distances is their job, they understand the reality of the situation, know how to recognize when their body can't take it and most importantly know how to plan their sleep schedule for driving.

You can always, always be more safe at driving. Up to and including the point of advocating for the end of motor vehicle use altogether. Everything about driving is dangerous, my point is was just that the situation described wasn't as brick-shittingly more risky as the GP's tone seemed to imply.


None of it is over the top, and none of it recommends to stay awake (only says to take caffeine if needed), you're just not seeing the picture because you want to believe that truck drivers are better drivers than anyone else because they do this for a living. It's a fallacy, of course. They're not immune to fatigue because they get paid to drive. They're reflexes and judgement are impaired as they would for you or me.

It's as dangerous as it sounds, if it was me who didn't get a whole night's sleep, had to drive a long distance on a deadline (no time for breaks), was sedentary, and had to drive through long and boring rural roads, you'd tell me to get the hell off the road before I kill someone.

I understand someone has to drive trucks to get my food to the supermarket, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the obvious risks, and reasons why the current system is a bad idea. I think driverless trucks would be the best solution.


The article states in the very first paragraph: "Let me tell you a little about the truck driver you just flipped off because he was passing another truck, and you had to cancel the cruise control and slow down until he completed the pass and moved back over."

The point is that the truck driver isn't doing anything wrong. He's just trying to get his job done.

Where in the article does it say he put anyone in danger or imply that he was doing anything that might warrant the police being notified?


I'd argue that NOBODY should be driving under these conditions, let alone a truck driver.

I wish it could be that way, but things look a lot different when you're the driver and missing the load means your family's going to have a hard time eating.

If you're going to be complaining, the drivers aren't the people to complain about.


Do something about it. Go to your grocery store and ask them to raise prices so they can treat truck drivers better.


That's not the solution. The fleet manager should have seen the condition their driver was in and found a way to get another driver out there ASAP.


So simple!


If the US had a safety net for people who lost their jobs and couldn't afford to pay their rent or grocery or medical bills, and if the US had a more reasonable minimum hourly wage, and if the US had more regulations to protect both truck drivers and other drivers on the road, it wouldn't happen.

Instead, the law says they can drive 14 hours. They are paid peanuts and have to pay for their own gas and repairs. And, as the article explained, if he was late -- due to the fault of his CUSTOMER -- then he'd lose an entire day waiting around. Which he can't afford, because he's paid peanuts, and there's no safety net.

The system is set up to create this exact situation, and if you don't like it, don't blame the individual, blame the system. Blaming the individual gives you that flair of righteous feeling in your chest but it doesn't change a damn thing. If this man decided to drive only 8 hours a day, he'd be out of a job and somebody else would simply take his place and do the 14-hour runs yet again.


I down voted you because

1) I think the way you process driving situations that annoy you is probably to imagine the other driver has ill intentions and to get pissed off, and as a biker in a city I'm tired of dealing with that kind of person

2) your implication that a truck driver making 40k is more than enough "for the lifestyle" isn't your judgement to make. as a person who has heard that line from employers who don't want to pay me fairly, that pisses me off

3) "Lastly, welcome to life". Fuck everything about that.


You're getting down-voted because you are trying to stereotype all truckers as aggressive, dangerous drivers. The author stated at the beginning of the piece that the trucker specifically got flipped off because he was taking too long to pass another truck. You are assuming a totally different case, where a trucker gets flipped off because he has just swerved into your lane.

You're right, work is hard, and perhaps truck drivers don't deserve our sympathy. But, I do think that we owe them common courtesy and respect as they conduct their business on our highways.


Your argument falls into "Misleading Vividness" (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/misleading-vividnes...)

The more common case is a driver being angered by the slight inconvenience of slowing down. Which usually is because they are in fact the one driving over the speed limit and therefore driving dangerously according the law.


Who flips someone off because they had to slow down?

This was my point.

This article was written by a fleet manager protecting the reputation of his drivers, but I am trying to say that there must be more to the story and usually people get the bird because they have done something dangerous.


> Who flips someone off because they had to slow down?

Uh... I can't tell if this is a serious question. Do you drive much? I see it happen all the time, and I live in Canada!


I find the Canada comment odd. I've driven in many states as well as BC and I would rank BC drivers as among the least courteous and most aggressive, even compared to SoCal drivers.


You can blame Hong Kong immigration for that.

In the summer of 1992 I encountered an amusing statistic. Insurance rates doubled in one year in BC almost entirely because of one kind of accident. Two cars are side by side, with the one on the left driven by a Canadian. A Chinese immigrant from Hong Kong is behind the two. The immigrant sees the opportunity, cuts over, and zooms past leaving the Canadian less than 6 inches of room. The Canadian freaks out, turns the wheel right to avoid what feels like a certain collision, and hits the car next to him.

All drivers in question drove in complete accord with the rules of the road and common driving practices where they grew up. It was all just a (very expensive) cultural misunderstanding.

Anyways Vancouver with something like a million people absorbed something like 80,000 immigrants from Hong Kong in the 1990s who didn't want to be there for the Chinese handover, and they brought a very aggressive driving style with them. Go to places that were less affected by that wave of immigration, and you should still see something more like the relaxed driving style that was present when I was growing up.


You're saying that the immigrant driver passed on the shoulder?


No, in Canada, like the USA, they drive on the right and the steering wheel is on the left. So the immigrant cut into oncoming traffic to pass on the left. The immigrant had to zoom to make it in the gap between oncoming cars, and left far less room for all parts of the maneuver than a Canadian would have been comfortable with.

The Canadian driver freaked, veered right to get away from the crash, and hit the car beside him.


Got it. Yikes. Funny thing, my heart rate rose just a bit when I finally comprehended this. Just the thought of a car approaching head-on.


You still don't quite get it. It wasn't the car that was being approached head on that got in the collision. That car was in a situation to see the whole thing coming and just put the brakes on.

It was driver who out of the blue realized that there was a car less than 6 inches away, going at least 20 mph faster, who needs to be where they are now or else they'll be in a headfirst collision. That driver's attention is focused on escaping from that threat, leading to a panicked swerve into the next car over.


No, I had it right. I've actually been in that situation -- a car trying to pass me across a double line into oncoming traffic -- and IIRC my reaction was to brake hard. Not necessarily a better reaction.


Ah, the "car approaching head-on" is the perspective of the immigrant.

Yup. That's the scenario exactly. And yes, braking hard is a better reaction. It makes life easier for the passer. The passing car probably came from behind you, and so there is likely a space. If there isn't, the car behind can see the whole scenario unfolding and has the opportunity to react. So all over it is much safer than swerving.

The only case it won't help is if the passing car is swerving, gets hit, and spins out. But in that case there is probably nothing you could do to avoid an accident.


There's not necessarily a car approaching head on at all. It's about someone passing more aggressively than expected (keeping much closer to the passed car than is normal in western countries, for example) causing the passed car to freak out and swerve away, into another car. All the cars involved are going in the same direction.


I live in Quebec, and find the drivers bad. However, I don't find them discourteous to the point of slamming on the brakes in front of you, getting out, and starting to talk shit because they cut you off (New York drive in PA).

Granted, I'm from Jersey originally, and I pride myself on the fact that by comparison, even Quebec drivers are safe. =)

Anyways, my point was, Canadians are generally seen as more mellow, and I still see them getting angry on the road.

Granted, this is all just from my experience.


From my experiences Alberta has the most aggressive Canadian drivers.


Who flips someone off because they had to slow down?

Everyone but you.


And me. Generally I only flip someone off if I had to slow down so fast the Anti-lock Breaking System activated. That usually only happens when someone enters my lane without looking and nearly hits me.

I've eased up on screaming and cursing though, usually have one or both of my kids in the car.


Can anyone tell me what they think they're accomplishing with that? I've always been curious but no one's had a good answer for me.


It feels good. It doesn't necessarily accomplish anything, but it can force the other driver to reevaluate the appropriateness of their actions.


>If his sister died, or he's getting paid peanuts, he still has to drive respectfully and safely to avoid causing any OTHER people on the road to die.

Very much this. A few weeks back I had to deal with a truck carrying a portion of a pre-built house, driving 75mph+ with traffic, switching lanes occasionally without using a blinker but mainly staying in the left lane of a two-lane highway. The paved service was minimal on both edges of the highway and there were times when the left tires of the trailer were nearly leaving the paved surface.

Even if he had a shitty week, that doesn't make him immune to criticism.


Though I see what you're saying, and ideally he should still drive his very best, he's human, and he's upset, and that matters. You're getting downvoted because you show little empathy. Everyone's story deserves to be heard, including yours, and why you do what you do when you're not at your best. Excellent article.


I only downvoted you for the "why am I being downvoted" karma whoring.


Sorry, I didn't know that was karma whoring because I never think about it, I was just confused because I was down to -2 with no replies and I wasn't sure what it was people weren't agreeing with. I'm on HN for the conversations, not the points, but points are indicators of the community's opinion of my views, and in this case, I had no comments to back-up the down-voting, so I begged a little //


> If a truck driver (or anyone on the road) gets flipped off, it is usually because they are driving a huge vehicle too aggressively and dangerously

Really? How do you know? Have you done a study?


Is there some kind of widespread anger at truck drivers? I've always found them to be the safest drivers on the road personally. Obviously their livelihood depends on their driving record so this is no real surprise.


>> Is there some kind of widespread anger at truck drivers?

I'm just one data point, but I've driven the I-5 in California between the bay area and southern CA a lot (about 180,000 miles on my 2005 Tacoma truck) as well as Hwy. 99 in the same vicinity.

I'd say that I've become apathetic towards truck drivers in general. I've been nearly run off the road twice (once where I was sure I was going to wreck real bad - got lucky), been cutoff, etc. by truckers more times than I can remember. Most truckers are safe, but the ones that are not can really skew your perception. Considering, in most cases, when a 18-wheeler causes an accident (I've witnessed a few), there is little damage to their truck or to themselves...the 'regular' car on the other hand is usually destroyed with devastating injury to the occupants.

This story made me feel like a jerk for moment (I've flipped off truckers before) - but the emotional aspects of the story can be applied to everyone else on the road too. Truckers are not the only ones that have to drive for their livelihood or have personal issues to deal with.


Having spent a lot of time in a truck, I can tell you it's extremely difficult to cope on high-traffic roads. Most car drivers will crowd around you giving you no chance to change lanes, etc. Sometimes you have no choice but you just start creeping over and scare everyone out from around you. Obviously most truckers know what they're doing and they won't actually run you over -- it's bad for them, too.

When I'm out on the highway in a car and I see a truck ahead of me trying to get over into my lane, I'll most likely slow down to hold up the lane behind me and give them a quick headlights flash to they can get over. I'm sure the other cars hate me for it, but who cares.


The headlight flash is trucker code...if you do it for them they typically flash the trailer lights back...kinda like a salute and I can say they are typically appreciative (BTW...not a high beam flash but an off/on flash).

My father was a long haul truck driver (lower 48 states) for 35 years. 9mos/year on the road, moving furniture, loading his own truck as an owner operator...he was one of the good truckers with over 1 million safe driving miles...I cannot say they are all good drivers but a lot of them are. If they are an owner/operator all expenses are paid out of pocket (fuel, repairs, tires, food, taxes, etc.) so typically an owner operator is going to be more cautious than a driver who doesn't have to pay for damage.

On a side note there are certain trucking companies which hire mostly new drivers (Swift is an example) I typically watch out for those trucks.


Wish I could do an on/off flash. Darn automatic headlights can't turn off while driving. But most drivers know this and a quick brights flash is understood the same way.


Around the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St.Paul) you get a lot of people in SUVs not taking into account the size and maneuvering of trucks. I have seen a couple try to pass from 3 cars back when the truck has already signaled a lane change. Then they get mad at the truck (lots of honking, cussing, etc.). It is especially annoying when you see the "look for motorcycles / bikes" bumper sticker on the vehicle acting like an idiot.

You are so right about the headlight flash, help the truck driver quite a bit.


There is no reason for a truck to be in anything but the right lane unless it is doing or about to left turn.


The problem isn't on roads where you can turn left at all. It's a highway problem. And in the Northeast, it's standard for any three-lane road to have trucks in the right two lanes. Having trucks solely in the right lane leads to merging problems.

It seems like most of the folks who've commented with such authority ("there is no reason", indeed!) aren't really familiar with why the rules are as they are.


Just like irrational fear of airplanes, truck drivers suffer a bad rep because of the availability heuristic[1].

*Edit: The article and comments also relate to the fundamental attribution error[2], where we often think someone is a "jerk" if they are speeding for example, but we often fail to take into account their perspective and situation.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_heuristic

[2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error


I think it may be a regional thing. I can't count the number of times truck drivers have nearly run me off the road by swerving into my lane for no discernible reason and then braking (when there's no other truck to pass and nothing to brake for).

But while that happens all the time in Northern California, I've never had it happen elsewhere. I drive down I-5 through the Central Valley all the time, and the truck drivers there are wonderful. I'll happily brake for them; it's the SUV drivers who cause the problems around there (and who are probably the ones flipping off the truck drivers).


I definitely felt a lot better when entering California, where they're required to stay on the right lane, and not to pass cars, than when I was going through El Paso, and my mom and I were almost killed by two passing trucks who swerved into my lane, in plain daylight, as if we weren't there.

I didn't flip the bird, but I would have if they'd be able to see me. I wonder why more states don't have similar regulation?


Out of curiosity, I have to ask where you were in relation to the truck? They have humongous blind spots that you really should take care to stay out of and if you were in one I'm not surprised if you almost got hit. A number of relatively new drivers are still getting used to dealing with their blind spots and need to learn better, but people really need to be careful about where they are.

EDIT: Not saying you were necessarily in one, but most times I've seen cars "being run off the road" or "nearly getting hit" they've been in the wrong place so I've taken to asking.


I was on the right-hand side of the road, a little in front of them, near an exit. They took that exit.

Perhaps I was on the wrong side of the road, but I don't know, that sounds terrible.


That sounds like you were driving just fine, but I'm curious how they almost killed you if you were in front of them?


They took the exit, so as to not miss it, they sped up to catch it and cut me off.

I remember it took a second or two for me to figure out what was going on, while my mom was telling me to hit the brakes slowly and start leaning to the far-right of the road (where you stop if there is an emergency).


You were fine; they were wrong.


> they've been in the wrong place

Er, no, the blind spot is the responsibility of the one whose vehicle has a blind spot.

Yes, it's useful for you to be aware of their blind spot, and try to stay out of it, but at no point does that give the driver with a blind spot the right to blindly invade your completely legal road space.


The blind spot is the responsibility both of the driver with the blind spot and of anyone interacting with that vehicle and this goes double with a tractor-trailer. In a normal small car you might be able to overcome blind spots by actually looking over, but in a tractor-trailer some blind spots are truly blind. It is absolutely the responsibility of the truck to be aware of this fact and act safely in accord with it, but you cannot absolve people invading these blind spots of responsibility.

If trucks had no right to "invade" blind spot they literally couldn't move forward because a car can easily hide in the front blind spot.


Check your laws. The truck absolutely has no right to move into its blind spot blind. You are not legally at fault if they move into you.

To flip your example, if they did have the right, they could "literally" rear end cars legally. Which they can't, so you're wrong.


Do you have any laws in particular you'd like to point me toward? I live in California if it helps you find any.

Blind spot collisions tend to be found to have multiple causation with both drivers at fault. Yes, the truck driver shares some responsibility, but so does the idiot hanging out in the blind spot, and that's how they tend to be ruled.

More to the point, however, if you want to hang out in the truck's blind spots, I'm really not going to shed a tear for you if your car gets crushed.

Most, if not all, US states, at least, have a pretty prominent section in their drivers' manuals regarding proper driving around tractor-trailers and dealing with their blind spots. In theory, you have to know the information contained within this section to be allowed to legally drive. You are expected to adhere to it when driving around trucks and you will share fault in most blind-spot related collisions that occur with tractor-trailers.

And, yes, this does mean that it is possible (albeit unlikely) for a tractor-trailer to be totally not at fault in a rear-end on the basis of blind spots.

At any rate, the truck driver is charged with certain safety precautions when he does so but he is absolutely required to enter his blind spots just to drive the truck.

More importantly, though, the fact the truck driver requires certain safety precautions does not absolve you from having to be safe on the road.


> Do you have any laws in particular you'd like to point me toward? I live in California if it helps you find any.

You can continue to say a driver following safety suggestions to avoid getting killed by incompetent other drivers ought not be hanging out in a blind spot. Well, sure.

It's a good idea to not taunt the robber with the gun. At no point, however, does taunting the robber give him the right to shoot you.

Since you asked, here are some laws from California.

If a truck rear-ends a car, this law is applied against the truck:

21703. The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.

If a car is passing a truck (through its blind spot), these laws apply to whether the car is at fault:

21750. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle, subject to the limitations and exceptions hereinafter stated.

The passing car maintaining its lane does not interfere with the truck's safe operation. If the truck subsequently decides to change lanes, it now becomes the truck's responsibility to do so safely. That does not create a sudden burden on the passing passenger car to accomodate the truck.

21752. No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the roadway under the following conditions:

(a) When approaching or upon the crest of a grade or a curve in the highway where the driver's view is obstructed within such distance as to create a hazard in the event another vehicle might approach from the opposite direction.

(b) When the view is obstructed upon approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.

(c) When approaching within 100 feet of or when traversing any railroad grade crossing.

(d)When approaching within 100 feet of or when traversing any intersection.

This section shall not apply upon a one-way roadway.

Thanks to the last sentence, the passenger car is never forbidden from being in the lane to the left of the truck. Again, if the truck decides to change the traffic pattern status by changing lanes, it is the truck's responsibility to be sure its lane change is safe.

21753. Except when passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall safely move to the right-hand side of the highway in favor of the overtaking vehicle after an audible signal or a momentary flash of headlights by the overtaking vehicle, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle. This section does not require the driver of an overtaken vehicle to drive on the shoulder of the highway in order to allow the overtaking vehicle to pass.

The truck is required to give way and make it easy to pass. This law must elude many CA truck drivers who seem to get a kick out of deliberately drifting toward a passing vehicle, crowding anyone daring to pass.

When coming up on a truck I flick my lights at them while I can see their mirrors. Doesn't matter if they're traveling faster than a truck ahead of them, they are not allowed to speed up and move into my lane once I'm beside them until I'm done passing them. Doesn't stop many from acting like they're alone on the road, but it's specifically forbidden.

Passing on the Right

21754. The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass to the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn.

(b) Upon a highway within a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel.

(c) Upon any highway outside of a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width and clearly marked for two or more lines of moving traffic in the direction of travel.

(d) Upon a one-way street.

(e) Upon a highway divided into two roadways where traffic is restricted to one direction upon each of such roadways.

The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a slow moving vehicle from the duty to drive as closely as practicable to the right hand edge of the roadway.

If a truck isn't keeping to the right as is their "duty", a passenger car is allowed to pass them on the right. And it's the truck driver's legal responsibility to be able to see that they are there:

26709. (a) Every motor vehicle registered in a foreign jurisdiction and every motorcycle subject to registration in this state shall be equipped with a mirror so located as to reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle.

Every motor vehicle subject to registration in this state, except a motorcycle, shall be equipped with not less than two such mirrors, including one affixed to the left-hand side.

(b) The following described types of motor vehicles, of a type subject to registration, shall be equipped with mirrors on both the left-and right-hand sides of the vehicle so located as to reflect to the driver a view of the highway through each mirror for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle:

(1) A motor vehicle so constructed or loaded as to obstruct the driver's view to the rear.

(2) A motor vehicle towing a vehicle and the towed vehicle or load thereon obstructs the driver's view to the rear.

(3) A bus or trolley coach.

(c) The provisions of subdivision (b) shall not apply to a passenger vehicle when the load obstructing the driver's view consists of passengers.

This rule applies to commercial trucks. Technically, this rule forbids "blind spots". The mirrors are required to show a continuous view of the highway from the mirror extending to 200 feet behind the vehicle. My truck (equipped with a tow haul package) has special split towing mirrors to comply with this rule, with the top half of the mirrors normal, and the bottom half "wide angle" to ensure a continuous view from parallel with the front seat through the rear of the vehicle, eliminating any blind spots.

Finally, since you're talking about driver's manuals, for the California passenger car driver's handbook, the guidelines are: don't cut off or tailgate (these are illegal anyway, regardless of truck vs car), and don't "linger" when passing. The language in this last is telling: ... after you pass the truck, move ahead of it. Do not linger, otherwise you make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the trucker to take evasive action if an obstacle appears in the road ahead. Your being there makes it "impossible" for the truck to take evasive action. Your being there does not give the truck the right to take evasive action into your lane, it makes it "impossible" for him, as he is not allowed to enter your lane.

While the driver's manual suggestions you keep citing doesn't have the force of law, here is the procedure in CA commercial driver's license (CDL) manual for what a truck driver should do before changing lanes:

Lane changes. Check your mirror to make sure no vehicle is alongside you or about to pass you. Check your mirrors:

- Before you change lanes to make sure there is enough room and signal at least 100 feet before turning. On the freeway, it is best to signal at least five seconds before changing lanes.

- After you have signaled, check to see that the lane is clear and no one has moved into your blind spot.

- Right after you start the lane change to double check that your path is clear.

- After you complete the lane change to be sure you turned off your signal lights.

If the driver's mirror has blind spots, the driver is told to be aware of vehicles moving into those blind spots, and maintain that awareness in advance of any lane changes.

Regular Checks. You need to make regular checks of your mirrors to be aware of traffic and to check your vehicle.

Traffic. Check the mirrors for vehicles on either side and in back of you. In an emergency, you will need to know whether you can make a quick lane change or stop. Use your mirrors to spot overtaking vehicles. Remember, there are blind spots that your mirrors cannot show you. Check your mirrors regularly to know where other vehicles are around you and to see if they move into your blind spots.

Again, the situational awareness is required of the truck driver before, and while, he initiates any traffic pattern changes.


Okay, so what I can determine from this post

- The truck driver does have a right to move into his blind spots if he has taken sufficient precautions to ensure that they are safe. This is completely different from "no right" to move into it.

- There is nothing absolving the car with which the truck collides of fault. [In actuality, blind spot collisions tend to be multiple causation with the car stupid enough to hang out in a blind spot sharing fault.]

- If you get hit by a truck and die, you're still dead regardless of who's at fault.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what I've been saying this entire time.

As for your hypothetical shooter, he may not have the right to shoot you, but nobody's going to be stupid enough to tell you that goading him into shooting you is not the wrong thing to do (which is about as far as that analogy is relevant).


It's extraordinary to me that you continue argue that a vehicle has a "right" to initiate a move out of their lane into a volume of space legally occupied by another vehicle.

> The truck driver does have a right to move into his blind spots if he has taken sufficient precautions to ensure that they are safe.

On the contrary, if someone is in his blind spot when he moves over, he has, by definition, failed to take "sufficient" precaution. The car not being legally responsible if the truck moves over into the area legally occupied by the car is what absolves it from fault. There's an entire industry of ambulance chasers profiting off the truck driver's absolute fault, and a phonebook size book of underhanded procedures the trucking companies try to use to duck that absolute fault.

Unless, of course, the driver crossed under his trailer from the other side, Fast and Furious style.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrngnaBWvyM

> If you get hit by a truck and die, you're still dead regardless of who's at fault. Which, incidentally, is exactly what I've been saying this entire time.

That statement is correct on its face, and doesn't raise any argument at all.


The car not being legally responsible if the truck moves over into the area legally occupied by the car is what absolves it from fault.

But this is not the case. If the car is quickly moving through a blind spot as they should be and the truck hits them, that's one thing. If the car is hanging out in the blind spot longer than is necessary they are also usually found to be partially at fault. You are at least partially responsible for your own unsafe driving, even if it is technically legal.

There's an entire industry of ambulance chasers profiting off the truck driver's absolute fault, and a phonebook size book of underhanded procedures the trucking companies try to use to duck that absolute fault.

That industry profits off of absolute faults when people are safely regarding the blind spots and the trucks hit them anyway and off of the primary, although not absolute, fault of the truck when the car is not safely regarding the blind spots. It is unfortunately true that there are trucking companies using underhanded procedures and, although I have no clue how many that is, I also know it's not absolutely universal and that ambulance chasers aren't exactly innocent of underhanded procedures themselves.

That statement is correct on its face, and doesn't raise any argument at all.

Then in what way is hanging out in a truck's blind spot or blocking their trailer's swing out path (which, by the way, often is the fault of cars who move into said path after the truck has initiated its turn) not the wrong place to be, even if the car were 0% at fault?


Within Houston, we often have the left lane (of at least 3) marked as "no trucks", but as soon as I get too far out of town, all the roads drop to 2 lanes and such a rule would be impossible due to the amount of truck traffic.


It only takes one moment where your entire family almost dies because of a truck driver to jade your opinion of all of them - or at least to be nervous every single time one comes within a 100 feet of you. I don't flip off truck drivers, but I get an uneasy feeling every time I'm around them and I try to avoid them.


Complacency and misplaced trust is a big danger when operating any moving vehicle. Your wariness is warranted, on a sweeping highway curve, I once watched a large truck devour a compact car because it cut too much into the right lane during the turn. Similarly, all it takes is one texting teenager to trust the fact that they're going straight, while in fact they've just cross into oncoming traffic.


> It only takes one moment where your entire family almost dies because of a truck driver to jade your opinion of all of them

How is that statement any different than "it only takes one moment where your entire family almost dies because of a woman driver to jade your opinion of all of them" or "because of a white driver" or "because of an old driver"?


Maybe not much difference, but I would say that it's rational to be cautious around very old drivers (as well as very young), since this demographic is statistically far more dangerous behind the wheel than average.


Some highways are now absolutely filled with trucks, to the extent that they outnumber passenger vehicles - I80 for example. While truckers are for the most part professional, not all of them are - like the one who intentionally gave the impression of being about to smash my car between his rig and another truck north of NYC a few years back.

Passenger vehicles are not on equal terms when traveling with trucks, safety wise. As someone who travels by auto often, I would definitely prefer to see fewer trucks crowding the roads.


More like impatient people in a rush focused only on getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. I've heard many stories of the ridiculous things 'four wheelers' do and are generally unaware of around trucks.

Next time you're frustrated at a truck driver, just remember, he's bigger than you, and he knows it. Treat him that way and the you'll be fine. If you forget that, don't be surprised if you end up with a missing side mirror.


... or chocked under an axle.


These days most are safe, based on personal observation. In years past, many were cranked up on amphetamines and drove like they owned the road. Mandatory DOT drug testing and enforced drive/rest time regulations cleaned a lot of this up.


Every driver has had some life or death situation with a "semi-truck". I believe the widespread anger goes towards anyone driving a huge vehicle that a normal car has trouble seeing around. Most of my personal anger goes towards city buses and anyone who drives a work van , most of these drivers speed, don't slow down in crosswalks, and cut you off in traffic.


This reminds of me the Pedro the Lion song "Big Trucks."


I'm sorry, but the ignorance expressed in this thread by some is absolutely astounding. Per mile, truckers drive far more safely than the typical driver. Just to put things in immediate perspective.

Beyond that, though, some people here are spending a whole lot more time blaming the drivers for the inevitable lapses in safety that occur when you're driving thousands of miles a week. Of course, it's definitely more comfortable to do that than consider the systemic reasons that happens, and your own role in it.

Goods have to be transported. The almighty market demands that. Which is to say, you demand it. So various companies have sprung up for centuries to transport those goods. These companies compete to lower costs as much as possible. If they don't, they're driven out of business, because stores know consumers prefer something to be a nickel cheaper even if it's bad for the environment, the truckers, and other nearby drivers. If a price is higher, companies choose to go with the trucking company that offers the cheaper price, because consumers like their nickel.

The way we've set up the system incorporates the public safety dangers into the price, via lawsuits etc., and the way we like it is to essentially demand that companies force drivers to drive the hell out of their trucks and their lives. We like our fucking nickels. At least more than any safety concerns.

Some here have said "well if the job is hard, then quit it!" Wow. Do you think people don't do this? Do you think that changes the market equilibrium at all? It doesn't. Whoever replaces him or her will drive under the same demands and incentives, and will on average respond the same way to those demands and incentives. No benefit.

I've seen also some victim blaming in saying "well if the job is hard, ask for a raise or get a union!" Interesting story there. Back in the mid-20th century, trucking was one of the most heavily unionized industries, via the IBT primarily. However, in the 80s and 90s, various Republican and Democratic administrations collaborated with trucking companies to make war on the unions. Originally truckers were employed directly by the companies, but eventually those companies realized they could react to unionization by outsourcing truckers, either into private shell companies that closed down as soon as unionization hit or by hiring truckers as contractors. Various NLRB boards aided and abetted this regulatory change.

The ruling elite (of which we are all part) largely cheered this on, because those greedy truckers are stupid and uneducated and don't deserve to make as much as us hardworking educated intelligent people, masters of the universe that we are.

So, we got our way! And our nickel. Drivers ended up atomized and could not collectively bargain against the buyers of their labor, decently-sized companies who had monopsony power in the trucker marketplace. So everyone ends up driven to the least common denominator.

If you want a better system, fight for it. Moreover, vote for it. Otherwise when some trucker nearly drives you off the road because they have to feed their family, you're just getting what you paid for.


I've seen also some victim blaming in saying "well if the job is hard, ask for a raise or get a union!" Interesting story there. Back in the mid-20th century, trucking was one of the most heavily unionized industries, via the IBT primarily. However, in the 80s and 90s, various Republican and Democratic administrations collaborated with trucking companies to make war on the unions. Originally truckers were employed directly by the companies, but eventually those companies realized they could react to unionization by outsourcing truckers, either into private shell companies that closed down as soon as unionization hit or by hiring truckers as contractors. Various NLRB boards aided and abetted this regulatory change.

You are ignoring the other half of the argument here. In Argentina, were I live, truckers are heavily unionised; this is true to the point were the leader of the union (Hugo Moyano) is probably one of the biggest driving forces of the policies in the country. See, since the railroad was torn to pieces by the liberal policies of the nineties, trucks are the only way to transport goods from most of the country. So the trucking union has the power to literally stop the economy if they so wish. This happens almost every year, and sometimes several times a year. It's impossible to legislate against the union (for example, in order to create more trains) without having an enourmous economic baclash.

Now, I understand that it sucks to be trucker without a union. But there is a huge economical cost involved in monopolizing the control of any form of transport and communication.


Oh, couldn't agree more. Different countries have different issues--my largely uninformed take on Argentina is that its biggest hurdles to development are shady bureaucracy and corruption. In the US I'd identify it as the domination of labor by capital.

In my perfect world, power would be distributed diffusely, so that no person or institution would be able to effectively coerce another.


I don't think anybody(or any union for that matter) will stop working just like that. Especially considering the fact that time is equally crucial for them.

Unions are needed to a extent, In my country(India), I would say unions are the only savior people in those professions have. As, if they are wronged in some way traditional way of approaching the courts takes years to get justice.

But coming to the larger point, in societies throughout the world hard work isn't fashionable. The default assumption is that somehow only bright, smart and intelligent people have the monopoly to be rich. Dumb, hardworking rich people doesn't even go well below peoples throats. When you see some one poor, meticulously working hard building a career,growing rich by savings/investment over years and compare the same with some one who was originally rich and intelligent but has now lost significant fortune, career and other stuff because of the laxed attitude, over comfort and over spending(spend thrifts). Often the first guy (originally poor but now rich by hard work) is considered purely lucky or at most 'time is on his side' kind of arguments.

A rich cab driver or a truck driver isn't something that goes down well in many societies.

Truck drivers other manual labor workers do a lot of work, take bigger risks(in terms of all aspects). They have their own careers, retirement option et al to consider. Therefore I believe what your parent poster wrote is very correct.


I don't think anybody(or any union for that matter) will stop working just like that. Especially considering the fact that time is equally crucial for them.

It happens. The union has a very charismatic "one of us" leader, and when he says the trucks stop, the trucks stop. A few years back, they stopped bringing milk and meat for a month to protest a new tax. This in a country where it's normal to eat meat more than 4 times a week, and milk is considered to be a basic need.

I'm not against any hardworking person becoming rich. They certainly deserve to reap the benefits of their hard work. what I am against is for someone who was not elected democratically having the power to drive the direction of a countries growth.


I don't think anybody(or any union for that matter) will stop working just like that. Especially considering the fact that time is equally crucial for them.

A truckers union protest in the UK blocked the supply of petrol for a while.


"I don't think anybody(or any union for that matter) will stop working just like that."

The trucker's unions in the USA did - hence the aforementioned tearing apart of said unions by the companies and government.


The last general strike that Teamsters were involved with was 1934.

That's a long time for the companies to react.


So what was the big strike - or viable threat thereof - in the 1980s? Was young then, but do remember a big looming question of whether the trucks would continue running.

Don't need an actual strike for an event to count, just a viable threat thereof.


I'm not proud to say I know someone who has made tens of millions of dollars providing loans to contractors so they can drive a rig. The drivers rarely know what truly terrible terms they're getting, yet they're stuck since they lose their livelihood if they lose their truck. The guy jokingly calls his company 'Tombstone Financial.'


There must be a special place in Hell just for that piece of fuck.


On one hand I totally agree when you slam the people who are showing total ignorance to facts of the market, they are an extreme. But on the other hand you are also acting like an extreme when you condemn everybody for saving the proverbial nickel. If the truckers have it hard so does a large proportion of the customers of goods.


It's not so much the proverbial nickel that I'm angry about. Customers can't really be expected to know all the nitty-gritty details of how the good was produced and transported.

The much more relevant issue is people voting for systems that make the nickel the rule of the day. And in all fairness many of them are voting on other issues or are misled about the issues by the mainstream media. Or maybe families are just too busy and overworked and lack social support for childcare to have a chance to critically consider the system. In the end most people aren't bad, they're just people trying to survive as best they can. So perhaps the anger is misplaced.

But without anger you only have despair, and at least with anger you get heard.


Without anger or despair you have sorrow and grief, but we're not good at that in America either.


Yes, the American attitude is really "I have it hard so FUCK YOU" rather than "We all have it hard. Why is that?" Poor and middle class Americans absolutely hate anyone who they think is getting something they "don't deserve," such as healthcare or services, rather than asking why they themselves don't also have it.


Anyone who thinks two-dimensionally should be slammed. Trucking creates one of those scenarios where we attribute personal accountability to systemic problems.

Always be wary of such systems, for the devil is in the details. You may save a nickel, but in the process cost society as a whole $0.50.


Per mile, truckers drive far more safely than the typical driver...inevitable lapses in safety that occur when you're driving thousands of miles a week...

It's hard to square this part of your post with this part:

...when some trucker nearly drives you off the road because they have to feed their family, you're just getting what you paid for.

According to you, we are paying a low price for goods to be safely transported. What's the problem?

Some here have said "well if the job is hard, then quit it!" Wow. Do you think people don't do this? Do you think that changes the market equilibrium at all? It doesn't.

If that were true, I'd have a very easy time hiring programmers and artists. Or are the laws of economics somehow different for truckers than for programmers?


According to you, we are paying a low price for goods to be safely transported. What's the problem?

The point is that we're willing to put truckers through harsher and tougher conditions in exchange for cheaper goods. The tradeoff is less safety. It'd be perfectly possible for a company to have truckers drive max 8 hours a day, with 2 hour stretches of driving separated by 15 minutes of rest time. This would be safer for the trucker and for other drivers, but a company that did this would simply be unprofitable unless other companies were, one way or another, mandated to do the same.

If that were true, I'd have a very easy time hiring programmers and artists. Or are the laws of economics somehow different for truckers than for programmers?

This is a slightly muddled understanding of economics. You're acting like the reason things suck now is that the labor market for trucker labor isn't in equilibrium. The issue is that it is, almost by definition. The reason truckers drive at a different level of safety now than in other possible realities is because that's how the market is. To change that you'd have to change the current regulatory regime.

Descriptively speaking, the structure of the labor market in trucking is different than that for programmers. Markets can empirically differ, you know. Engineers have specialized skills and multiple purchasers for their labor. Indeed, in lots of ways an engineer has some level of monopoly power over her employer, due to the non-fungibility of her labor and the search costs.

The same is not true for truckers. They don't have specialized skill sets, and their labor is demanded by only a few large firms at most. Search costs are almost nonexistent. This gives employers significant power over them in the labor market.


This would be safer for the trucker and for other drivers, but a company that did this would simply be unprofitable unless other companies were, one way or another, mandated to do the same.

According to you, truckers are already safer than non-truckers. Isn't that safe enough?

If not, should we also raise safety levels for car drivers? If so, what is optimal level of safety when operating a motor vehicle?

You're acting like the reason things suck now is that the labor market for trucker labor isn't in equilibrium.

And if truckers begin to quit, the equilibrium will shift. Do you have any evidence that it will not?

The same is not true for truckers. They don't have specialized skill sets, and their labor is demanded by only a few large firms at most. Search costs are almost nonexistent. This gives employers significant power over them in the labor market.

According to a quick google search, there are about 500,000 trucking companies, 96% of which operate 28 or fewer trucks and 82% of which operate 6 or fewer trucks.

http://www.truckinfo.net/trucking/stats.htm

As you note, the search and switching costs are also lower, which makes the market for truckers closer to an ideal free market than the market for programmers. So why do you believe prices will not respond to a shift in the supply curve for truckers?


According to you, truckers are already safer than non-truckers. Isn't that safe enough?

Depends on the marginal cost of saving a life by increasing safety standards. Typically if it's $5 to $10 million/life or less, I'm in favor of it, which is typical for policy decisions in the States.

And if truckers begin to quit, the equilibrium will shift. Do you have any evidence that it will not?

I feel like we're talking past one another. Yes, drivers could quit en masse, which would change prices. But they don't, which is a revealed preference--they prefer driving unsafely and feeding their families to not driving and not feeding their families. The current equilibrium is the reality; what you're looking for is an exogenous shock, while a single person entering or leaving the market is endogenous.

According to a quick google search, there are about 500,000 trucking companies, 96% of which operate 28 or fewer trucks and 82% of which operate 6 or fewer trucks.

From that same site: "It is an estimated over 3.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. Of that one in nine are independent, a majority of which are owner operators."

Just under 400,000 of those 500,000 companies are single truckers who are contractors.

Sheer number of companies isn't a good measure of competitiveness. You've got to look at the full set of and characteristics of employers in a given region. Check out, for instance, Boise, Idaho. http://www.quicktransportsolutions.com/carrier/idaho/boise.p...

It has many companies, but if you look at the distribution of number of trucks operated, there's a very long tail. The median number of trucks operated is 1, but you see a couple that are > 100. Just like you might have hundreds of OSes but an effective monopoly by Microsoft, you've got to look at the actual share of the marketplace.

As you note, the search and switching costs are also lower, which makes the market for truckers closer to an ideal free market than the market for programmers. So why do you believe prices will not respond to a shift in the supply curve for truckers?

It is closer to an efficient market than that for programmers, notwithstanding the caveats I mentioned above. So, yes, prices will respond in a shift in the supply curve for truckers. But you are under the impression that a single person entering or leaving the market shifts the supply curve. That choice is an endogenous in the model--people choose to join or leave the market based on the prevailing price--whereas a shift in the supply curve is exogenous (e.g. related to automation, increased education, mass slaughter of truckers, whatever).


> > Some here have said "well if the job is hard, then quit it!" Wow. Do you think people don't do this? Do you think that changes the market equilibrium at all? It doesn't.

> If that were true, I'd have a very easy time hiring programmers and artists. Or are the laws of economics somehow different for truckers than for programmers?

So you think it takes the same skill set to be a programmer as it does to be a trucker? Or that the training to be a programmer is equivalent to the training to become a trucker?

Not all job markets are equal. Artists are valued by the quality of their work almost completely. Truckers - as long as they meet minimum legal safety standards - are valued by the quantity of their work. Big difference.


So you think it takes the same skill set to be a programmer as it does to be a trucker?

No, I think the laws of supply and demand apply equally well to trucking and programming. If sufficiently many truckers quit supply will go down and price will go up.

Artists are valued by the quality of their work almost completely.

Not necessarily, once it meets minimum quality standards. Many artists merely create a large amount of fairly interchangeable art that agrees with a style guide.


If every trucker in the US quit tomorrow, they would be replaced in a week or so, by similarly paid drivers. Not enough truck licenses? The government would pass emergency legislation, allowing anyone who has held a car license for 3 years (with no major traffic offenses) to drive a truck for the next year or so. It might cost a few thousand in sign-on bonuses, and there would be some horrific accidents caused by inexperienced drivers, but the supply of replacement drivers is there.

If every programmer in the US quit, they wouldn't be replaced nearly as quickly.


Adding to your point, 'Quality' itself and its perception is not equal across professions.

For a truck driver how quality is measured might be totally different than how its measured for a programmer.


Would a more extensive rail infrastructure eliminate the need for so many trucks? Does rail fail to scale at the distances and route complexities involved in traversing the US to all the major population centers? I promised I didn't intend to rhyme in the previous sentence.


The US has the largest railway network in the world, in terms of total length of tracks and in tonnage of cargo. The US does not have a very extensive passenger rail network.


dmm is right. Citation: http://www.economist.com/node/16636101 There's a reason Berkshire Hathaway spent 34 billion to buy Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation.


Seems like this is an unavoidable issue with the land area of the United States, then. The pain-in-the-ass has to be relocated to someone, so it ends up with the truck drivers and/or product costs.


I doubt it. The United States already has the best rail infrastructure in the world for cargo. The problem is that rail is relatively slow and you still need to get your goods from the rail station to whatever store or factory they're needed at.



Problem is there's a lot in between all your major population centers, and you can't run a rail line to (or in many cases, even close to) every mom-and-pop store. Also, many of these trucks will haul cargo for multiple locations - custom windows for three different stores and two construction sites for instance. No rail line is efficient at delivering small loads.


But, you can have depots and these things called "Train Stations" to drop off goods and have a trucking company move the goods the last 10 miles.

As for small loads, this is where combined shipping comes in handy. I believe many of the shipping companies like UPS and FedEx used to do a lot of ground shipping via rail for their 5-7 day deliveries. I don't know about this anymore.


To get from the Chinese ships to the rail station... you must have trucks.

To get from the rail station to Walmart... you must have trucks.

No way around it.


I'd imagine (on the basis of common sense, rather than evidence, so I may well be wrong), that there should be rail facilities fairly close to any major port.

Trucking from the railhead is probably unavoidable, but the article talks about a 1000mi trip, whereas according to wikipedia at least, greatest distance across the 48 states is 2800mi. Surely the nearest freight depot should be less than 1/3 of the country away?


You're right about the port. Here's a link to the Harbor Island map (in Seattle, WA where we get lots of shipments from Asia), note proximity of rail lines:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Harbor+island,+Seattle,+WA&...

I don't know much about it, but the machinery at the port looks really impressive. It seems to lift cargo from the ships onto the trains.


The issue isn't so much the distance from the train, so much as once you take it off the train, you split it up into much smaller loads....with different owners and destinations, and those loads probably change hands, and are pretty hard to put -back- onto trains.


It sounds like we need an RFC for automated packet-switched transport of physical goods. Surely the existing algorithms used for physical logistics and IP network routing could be used to create a highly-reliable automatic package delivery system.


The closest I can think of is Personal Rapid Transport[1], which is a light-rail/monorail network of individually powered (small; 3-person or so) vehicles. Various schemes for routing have been proposed, many of which are conceptually similar to packet-routing of the carriages.

[1] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Personal_rapi...


The article specifically addresses the plight of long-haul truckers. I don't think anybody has said freight could be delivered effectively without any trucks at all.


Well arguably it makes sense to run rail lines to ports (and from what I've seen of ports this is not uncommon), since multi-modal transport is pretty common.


Driving trucks is also one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. For example, this list shows it to be more deadly than being a firefighter or police officer:

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-15-most-dangerous-jobs-in...

When a policeman or firefighter dies, it's all over the news for days. The funeral is gigantic, with hundreds of peers drawn from all over the region. The mayor almost always attends.

When a trucker dies, he gets a regular funeral attended by his loved ones.


Without belittling any tragedy, and with the obvious bias of being a firefighter, whilst trucking may be more deadly than being a firefighter, the situation you describe is largely in response to the fact that that person typically gave their life in order to try to save a stranger, or their home. Despite the risks to themselves, they put their hand up and said "I will go into that burning building if I know you are in there. I will risk life and limb to get you out. And in the process, I acknowledge that there is a chance that -I- may be the one that doesn't come out."

Their big funeral, with all of their peers? Is but an acknowledgement of that. No-one made them make that decision, but they did. Their peers come because they want to show support to the family and friends, knowing that if that worst should happen to them, they'd want their own family and friends to have that support.


How is your quoted example more noble than this one?

"I will go onto that dangerous interstate if I know you need the [food / building supplies / fuel / etc] I'm hauling. I will risk life and limb to maintain the lifestyle you enjoy. And in the process, I acknowledge that there is a chance that -I- may not survive."

Both occupations put their lives on the line, every day, so that the rest of us can live safe and comfortable lives. But while one occupation commands great respect from the community (deservedly so), the other is mostly looked down upon (unfairly).


How is it more noble? In just about every possible way.

Driving on the "dangerous interstate" is something we all do, most of us every day. And it's not dangerous in the sense of running into a burning building or into the robbery-in-progress.

Doing things like that are heroic because they require you to overcome a very basic and very strong sense of self preservation at all costs.

Truckers do a valuable job, but so do we all: That's why we get paid. We're adding value. But they're not hero's in the sense you're suggesting.


How do you feel about high-rise construction workers? They meet your test, having to overcome millennia of instinct every time they walk out on an I-beam to perform a dangerous job for the benefit of the rest of society.

Are they worthy of fireman-policeman levels of respect, or do you find them lacking as well?


Bullsh^^t raldi, I don't find anybody "lacking" and that's not fair to say. You asked a question, I answered it.

This is the last round of your game here I'm going to play, but fine, here goes:

I didn't explicitely say in my previous example that there's people in that burning building or victims being robbed, but I thought it was implied.

We value human life, not buildings and stuff.

If firemen routinely died running into burning buildings to save the building they wouldn't be very impressive. You'd imagine they'd be doing it because somebody is paying them well and if that's the case, that's the risk they take.

Highrise construction workers are not up there risking their life in a way where, on a moments notice, almost as reflex, they thrust themselves into peril to save a life.

They're doing it because they want and love the thrill and because they're well paid.


Have you ever been in a moving big-rig at 65 mph? It's terrifying to be a passenger; you can only imagine the balls it takes to pilot one. If you don't think it's any scarier than driving to work, you should talk to a trucker. Ever hear of a runaway truck lane? You think a truck driver going over the Rockies in pitch black night with nobody around doesn't have to overcome a sense of self-preservation?


Why do you think that truck drivers aren't risking their life for us like the firefighters and police men are doing? We live in a society where most jobs are needed. If it wasn't for them it would be hard for millions of people to get their food in the stores every day.

Edit: to clarify even more, even the truck driver knows thst he's got a probability to die during his work, which seems to be higher than most other jobs. Most drivers know this.


Indeed. The comfortable society we all enjoy literally could not exist if not for truckers risking their lives every day to provide its circulatory system.

People talk about soldiers bravely and selflessly putting themselves in danger to protect The American Way(tm). Truckers deserve that same respect.


I found the economic part interesting. Definitely sounds like a tough job with some poor incentives.

The other part, about the possibility that he is going through a personal crisis, applies equally to all interactions with strangers everywhere, so it seemed a little out of place.


Maybe you missed the last line? It wasn't a "possibility", but an account of an actual event.

That said, I'm always saddened that folk don't consider such a possibility in interaction with strangers -- especially when it doesn't cost them anything. Assuming the worst of someone to protect yourself is one thing, but all too often I see such an assumption used as a reason to get angry at a stranger. Quite why people search for reasons to be angry I'm not sure, but it sadly seems to be a human trait. :(


Re: the death of the sister: Maybe you missed the last line? It wasn't a "possibility", but an account of an actual event.

That's actually the biggest problem I had with this article. It's making an appeal to our emotions by implicitly suggesting that all truck drivers, at all times, always have some emotionally-crippling tragedy occurring in their lives. Even presupposing that's true, it would suggest that everyone (not just truck drivers) are probably in the same boat, so truck drivers in this sense are no different from the rest of us.

But of course, everyone doesn't have a personal tragedy happen to them every week. The majority of the time, truck drivers have just as much (or as little) personal tragedy as the rest of us. Yes, it's unfortunate that the job also kinda sucks (sometimes? all the time?), but that's the case with many different kinds of jobs.

Yes, I agree with the generic sentiment that, in interactions with strangers, you should consider that you have no idea what's going on in their lives at that particular moment. But in this case I'm more interested in the facts that more likely than not affect all truck drivers: the mediocre pay, long hours behind the wheel, scheduling difficulties, pressure to meet deadlines that maybe aren't healthy or safe, etc.


I think the point was that unlike some of us (most of us?) the nature of the work makes it impossible for truckers to "leave early" or take a day off to respond to personal emergencies.


If you mean "us" in the sense of the HN community, you're probably right. But those restrictions are likely no different than what the majority of workers across all professions in the US (and the world?) are subject to. Truckers are certainly not unique.


It's really quite widespread. Cracked has a great article talking about it: http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html


It's a possibility, but how many truck drivers does this emotional situation with the sister apply to? Not many specifically. I'm sure they all do miss their families, however.


The sister thing in particular doesn't tend to apply in general, but something does.

The article says "out 10 days and back for a couple" but that vastly depends on what kind of trucking you do. My dad's current schedule, for example, has him out for 5 or 6 and in for 1 or 2 (in a good week; recently there's been a few where he's only been out for 3 or 4 days which is a huge strain on the finances), but in the past he's had some short haul routes where he was home every day just long enough to sleep and before that, when I was young, he did some long hauls where I sometimes didn't see him for a month or more.

For the long haulers, even if their sister didn't die, odds are something has happened that they haven't had a chance to deal with.

The real take away message from this, though, is just respect and not to get upset if a truck is slowing you down for a minute.


To sum it all up, we need more empathy for others and their situations we are not aware of. I highly recommend this short TED video http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_richards_a_radical_experiment_i...


Reminds me of one of PG's best posts (IMO), See Randomness: http://www.paulgraham.com/randomness.html


Or from a comedic viewpoint, the Monkeysphere: www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html


Great video, thank you for sharing that link.


I voted that up, but I feel the need to follow up with a more emphatic endorsement: this video is well worth twenty minutes of your time.


Most of the folks driving truck are true professionals. For example, anyone else ever spot truckers herding traffic? I've seen this a few times locally, it normally happens when there's a lane merge coming up due to construction.

On more than one occasion I've seen truckers entirely block the merging lane, forcing folks behind them to merge cleanly. This gets everyone through the construction zone faster since you don't have a stream of last-minute merges jamming things up.


Technically, it's not the last-minute merges that jam things up, it's the people not letting the last-minute mergers in.

The ideal situation is if everyone merged at the end of the lane, and everyone in the other lane allowed people to merge.


I love when they do that, I hate all those last minute assholes who zoom by the rest of us who are adhering to the construction signs indicating that a lane is closed ahead. I always think that I should herd traffic myself, but I'm just one guy in a little car, so I really appreciate when the big rigs do it for me :-)


Actually, the zoomers are usually doing the right thing (sorta). When traffic is congested to the point where you can't do a natural "closing zipper" merge, the best way to avoid jams is for everyone to use up all available lane space, but -- and here's where the problem comes in -- leave enough room for alternate-feed merging at the end. That's what causes the stop-and-go jam: people at the merge point not letting other cars in.


adhering to the constructions signs indicating that a lane is closed ahead

What part of the construction sign are you adhering? Is there a construction sign that says "merge immediately"? No.

So your anger is based on what? The fact that you merge into a lane, and then the person behind you drives by you? Think about this logically:

If you merge in at point A, and a driver passes you to merge closer, are they an asshole? So now the merge point is now point A. Anyone merged after point A is an asshole. But you have just established a definitive, permanent merge point that a driver may not pass.

Is this effective? Is it effective to have a merge point, beyond which someone may not pass, or should they merge at some point before this? If the answer is "yes, it is effective to have a hard merge point" then why should that merge point be point A, and not the lane end? What is magical about point A? Should the drivers in the thru lane at point A automatically let you in? Why?

But if drivers behind you should also merge before point A (in the same way that you merged before the lane-end) then a new merge point A' is established (beyond which anyone is an asshole). So the "polite, non-asshole" endpoints A, A', A'' move further and further back down the freeway, leaving a huge area of the freeway unused and causing the traffic jam to extend as much as twice as far as it need be.


Back when I was 17 or 18, I was cruising down the PA turnpike at speeds my 89 Dodge Colt probably shouldn't have been doing, when I came across two trucks taking up both lanes, driving exactly 55mph, staying in that formation for a minute or two. It was frustrating at first, but when we passed the state trooper and his radar gun, it was like a revelation. Since that time, I've always paid a lot more attention (and respect) to how truckers drive.


Awesome! I had a similar experience several years ago doing a late night bombing run up I85 on my R1. It was 3:00 AM so it was just me and the trucks on the highway.

I struck up a conversation with a trucker at a rest stop. We chatted for a while and then I went to put my helmet on and take off. Before I did I asked him if he'd put the word out that I was on my way through and to have the other truckers keep an eye out for me. He agreed, so I got back out on the highway doing a modest 10 over.

The first semi I encountered flashed his trailer lights at me indicating all clear, at which point I dialed it up to 150mph and held it there for the better part of an hour and a half. I must have passed 20 trucks on this run and 7 out of 10 gave me the high sign on my way through.

Just outside Petersburg VA two of them where blocking both lanes, so I slowed way down just in time to zip past a state trooper at a stately 3mph over the speed limit.


Yep...sometimes they have had CB warning of speed traps (or truck stop word of mouth) for many miles before you get there...call it an old school radar detector.


You claim: This gets everyone through the construction zone faster since you don't have a stream of last-minute merges jamming things up.

There are countless studies demonstrating that this apparently widely held opinion is wrong. Here's one, discussing joint merge (i.e. merge at the end):

http://www.workzonesafety.org/node/10936

Overall, merging speeds were found to be relatively similar at volumes ranging from 600 to 1,200 vehicles per hour and did not affect the discharge rate at the merge outflow point. However, the experimental results did suggest that drivers were more cautious in their merging maneuvers. This was thought to be attributable to the joint merge, which produced a more evenly balanced lane volume at the transition zone entrance.

That is: drivers were more cautious (good), exit traffic flow was the same (contrary to your statement) and lane volume was balanced - i.e. the traffic jam extended less further down the freeway (very good).

Two major reasons for accidents during merges are

  1) Anger at merge points based on perceived fairness
  2) High speed traffic in the empty lane hitting vehicles
     attempting to enter the free lane
The ideal pattern (maximal traffic flow, minimal accidents) is to fill all available lanes and merge at the ends on a take-turns basis.


The ideal pattern only exists in laboratory settings. In all real-world scenarios I've encountered driving in 15 states the actual outcome is road rage.


I like the post for the humanist viewpoint. I have to think that maybe truckers aren't going to be as disappointed as I thought when the entire industry workforce is displaced in 15 years with self-driving trucks.

I've put quite a bit of thought on it and my guess is that the truck driving workforce is going to evaporate almost overnight once self driving trucks are green-lighted. It's going to be hard for a human to compete unless he can drive 24x7, never get tired, have split-second reflexes, and works for 65 cents worth of electricity a day...


I have to think that maybe truckers aren't going to be as disappointed as I thought when the entire industry workforce is displaced in 15 years with self-driving trucks.

Don't be so sure. Just because some jobs are truly shitty doesn't mean people won't fight to the death to keep them. Just look at coal miners.


Well, many workforces are going to be extinct in the coming years (as many already have been). The problem is what kind of society are we going to have once average human cannot produce anything tangible enough to support himself.


The problem is what kind of society are we going to have once average human cannot produce anything tangible enough to support himself.

I like to think about this question a lot.

My mind keep going back to Rome's slave based economy. There were a lot of slaves doing all kinds work, and rich people, and politicians, and a whole lot of average people who got government bread and circuses.

And if you kind of squint and look the situation we have today, huge inequality, a disappearing middle class, and ever more people dependent on government... it kind of starts to look familiar.

So maybe our future is just more of that. A few very rich people, politicians, a lot of fully automated production in factories, farms, and even most of the service sector, and a lot of people permanently on government support.

I honestly can't quite tell if that's a utopian or dystopian world. If you think about it in terms of how America handles its poor people, it looks kind of grim. If you look at how the Scandinavian countries, along with Holland and Germany, and few others, deal with the same problem - its not so bad.

Either way, the coming decades will be interesting.


Not sure if your comment is satirical, but I doubt we'll see self-driving vehicles on the road in any reasonable numbers anytime soon... we'll sooner see mass-adoption of electric vehicles before then.

Driving (with irrational human actors) is non-deterministic.


> I doubt we'll see self-driving vehicles on the road in any reasonable numbers anytime soon

I don't know about the rate of deployment, but Google is already lobbying Nevada to officially allow its driverless cars. They have successfully logged hundreds of thousands of miles on U.S. roadways with only one incident: one of the driverless cars was rear ended while waiting at a red light.

> Driving (with irrational human actors) is non-deterministic.

They don't have to "solve" driving. All they have to do is be less stupid than human drivers.

We haven't set the bar that high.

Even so, the Google project seems to be working fine so far, irrational human drivers notwithstanding.


They've gotten past lobbying Nevada. Nevada's building the regulations for it, which counts as "google has gotten Nevada to allow driver less cars"


Nevada has already legalized self driving cars: http://blogs.forbes.com/alexknapp/2011/06/22/nevada-passes-l...

And I bet Google's car is already better then most if not all human drivers can ever be.

The fact that the road is full of unpredictable humans does not mean that a computer can't be a better driver then another human. In fact, the more dangerous the road conditions, due to other bad drivers, or any other reason, the better it is to have a super-human computer do the driving.


Well, sounds like the perfect reason to enact sensible, non-petroleum lobby fueled transportation reforms.

If you've traveled by interstate lately, you may have noticed the number of trucks on the road has reached ridiculous, to the point where the interstates now mainly exist for use by trucking companies. Unfortunately, transportation by truck is one of the least efficient methods possible. Train and barge can transport tens,if not hundreds, of times the cargo for a given amount of fuel. 80% of the thick black pollution they spray out, all that diesel fuel - the fuel they spend idling - is being expended completely stupidly. Exxon and BP like it, and they guided us here - it's time to do something else.


Are you aware that we already have a massive freight rail system?

Trucks get around the unfortunate and largely unavoidable problem that rail can't carry everything or go everywhere.


The proportion of cargo moved by truck has increased significantly in the past 40 years, for no good reason. Of course transport by truck is needed for the last leg (into cities). It's not needed to move the majority of the interstate cargo currently being moved this way.


A great story with a human angle.

It is interesting, when the personal connection with the other party is not present or is reduced, how personalities can change. Email / news groups / etc. regularly erupt in flamewars, people making snide comments, etc.

The same thing happens often when people get in their vehicle. In their own little world, drivers aren't always as aware of their actions and behaviors as they should be (or how their actions impact other drivers, for instance).

I know I have been guilty of this from time to time.

This is another call to really just bring an awareness to your actions and who/what they may affect.


Yeah it interesting. I work Tech Support, and often get angry customers, when I deal with them I have to try and remember where they are coming from, how they feel and think, otherwise I end up angry myself and it makes it a lot harder to deal with them.


Tinted Windows

I've noticed other drivers are more courteous when I'm driving a car without tinted windows. Specifically I had two cars. One was an older standard cab pickup with no window tint anywhere (think fishbowl) and the other was a luxury car with dark window tint and a black interior. Night and day difference between how I was treated on the road. These are the same routes driven similar times. My own little observation that seeing the other driver causes you to treat them differently subconsciously. Truck drivers may have a similar issue being unseen.

Edit: Also as a pedestrian it's nice to see where a driver is/isn't looking.


So my friend is driving his big rig, probably been driving for about 5 days. Tooling down the highway in his lane during the day. Suddenly a car cuts right in front of him and he can tell the car is going to hit him. Split second decision time:

A) Attempt to slam on the brakes and watch as 40 tons plows into the car. The truck will sustain minor damage and the car will sustain heavy damage, possibly killing all the people inside. Assuming the truck doesn't jackknife.

B) Swerve onto the shoulder and possibly off into a ditch, saving the car and possibly killing himself, and possibly others if the truck jackknifes and other cars hit it.

I know a lot of people have no sympathy for truckers, but take the time and actually talk to one. They put up with untold amounts of bullshit just to make a living. It's not a bad job for someone who might be too unskilled to get another job, but it sure is grueling.

Another thing I find some people tell me is how every time they drive next to a truck they almost get run off the road. Truckers actually try really hard not to kill you. The easiest thing you can do for a trucker is not drive next to one. Either pass him or sit behind him, but not next to him. And if you see one with his blinker on, please, get the hell out of the way.


Wow...the comments on this thread are more callous than I had anticipated. The story is a good story. Sure, these things happen in all professions - that policewoman that put her life on the line chasing some young drug kingpin in the back of an alley last week, just lost her baby 2 months ago - but that doesn't make this story less true and require less empathy.

I never understood the road rage thing.

If you know that there is a big truck in front of you (or near you) on the freeway, and you know they might drive aggressively, do what you need to get away as quickly as you can. Either slow down, or overtake, in a responsible way.

But no need to be a douchebag about it. Sure, you may have been bad-driven by truck drivers in the past, but believe me...that's not bad driving.

Come to Jamaica where EVERYBODY bad drives EVERYBODY, it's a regular occurrence. You can either get pissed and cuss everybody, or you can let it roll off your shoulders and not let it bother you.

Just protect yourself, drive responsibly and don't get flustered.


I honestly can't think of any positives that come with being a truck driver. You aren't even "traveling" in the sense that you get to see different places. You're just burning away life with no time to do anything besides listen to radio shows/music. We should all be so lucky that we're never in that position.

My dad used to work for a company that sold communication services at truck stops. He always told me that it's important to not change into the right now too soon after passing them and to just remind that they've got a blindside much larger than a car. Pretty simple stuff, but I bet most people don't think about it. I've driven on I-80 a good amount at night when it's almost all truck drivers and I've never had a problem. I would often get a annoyed when two trucks would drive next to each other going around 68MPH, but now I know better. A little empathy can go a long way.


Many of them are former construction workers with injuries. Trucking is far from the worst job they could have had.


So, what the article is trying to say is that we should be using trains more for long hauls to concentrated depots and trucks for short hops from the trains?

That would alleviate highway traffic congestion, save a ton on the amount of fuel used to ship goods around the US, and would keep Chuck the Truck Driver in a location close to home.

Wonderful idea.


Of course, if we were to do this, I'm sure the next article would be about how trains are taking jobs away from truck drivers. You just can't win, really.


If they're tracked electronically anyway and cannot fudge route-logs, it's criminal to make the driver pay for their own truck-fuel. (It would be shitty even without the electronic tracking, but now it's inexcusable.)

This is like a company making you pay for the electricity you consume while working in their offices.

(This is right up there in with paying waiters ~$2 an hour because they can make up the rest in tips.)


I don't think you're exactly understanding the economics. This is not someone getting paid $500/week and having to buy a truckload of deisel fuel out of that sum...

Most OTR contracts are paid a set amount per mile as a gross number. Drivers (privateers) are independent businesses and they take that gross amount and buy everything they need to fulfill the contract (including fuel) as a business expense.

It's no more criminal than the fact that an independent software developers need to pay for the electricity they consume in their offices.

There are employee-drivers as well, and in those cases, the fuel may or may not come out of the drivers' pockets. (And if it doesn't, they obviously get paid far less per mile, because someone is picking up the $0.55 per mile in fuel costs.) To my mind, having the person with the most ability to influence fuel efficiency be economically incented to be efficient isn't a bad thing at all.

It's a matter of contract terms between consenting independent actors. Hardly something I'd call "criminal". (Same thing with waitstaff in the US. Everyone understands how it works, and the system works...)


I was commenting with employee-drivers in mind. Clearly if they're working for themselves, they pay all the expenses!

I should've also clarified that when I said "criminal" it wasn't in the specific legal sense, and more along the lines of "evil".

Everyone understands how it works, and the system works...

Yeah, but this doesn't mean the workings are either right or acceptable.


Not sure what the comparison is with waiters. A lot of waiters are in their teens or early twenties and it's already one of the highest paying jobs for that group without requiring any real qualifications. Restaurants, on the other hand, are not the most profitable business around as it is, and you want them to triple their payroll expenses to pay minimum wage?


It only works because its been around long enough that there is a culture of tipping for service, to the point it's practically an invisible tax on each meal (granted, with the option to avoid it if you really want/have to, but is considered negative socially)

Elsewhere in the world, there is much less of a tipping custom, and wages for service staff tend to reflect that.

Isn't there some kind of US law that requires restaurants to pay the difference between wage+tips & minimum wage if the tips share is low enough?

(OTOH, I recall reading somewhere about people paying huge sums (order of $10's of K) for high-profile service jobs like Maître d' at a prestigious hotel, or head waiter in a high-class restaurant, due to the quantity earned in tips)


Isn't there some kind of US law that requires restaurants to pay the difference between wage+tips & minimum wage if the tips share is low enough?

There is but that doesn't mean restaurants necessarily follow said law. A lot of servers don't really have any means of actually properly enforcing it without just straight up losing their job in the best case so, in practice, you find people just staying silent as they get shafted.


You're correct. If a waiter does not meet minimum wage with tips, the employer is required to pay the difference. I am not sure how often this is actually used though. It would seem easy to brush off and ignore.


A lot of these arguments have the 'tipping culture' as the basis.

My position is that the way this is set up in the USA is plain wrong - tips should be a voluntary gratuity from the customer to thank the waiter for a job well done.

Once that is the case, then establishment's only responsibility is to pay the employee a minimum living wage, making no assumptions about tips. This is pretty much the way it works in a large swathe of the world, and seems to be working pretty well.


the fact that you think being a waiter has "no real qualifications" underlines the fact that you probably haven't been one.

also, there is an immense range of compensation for servers, depending on the restaurant in question. any restaurant that you go to where the servers make a decent amount of money definitely requires skill.


I have been a waiter actually, in college. I had no qualifications. I also wasn't very good at it. I did work at a 'Chili's'-type restaurant, not a nice place where the waiters would be more experienced obviously. I do realize that it's a demanding job and is difficult to really be good at. That doesn't change the fact that it pays very well for the class of jobs that a 17-year old high school student can get.


I know someone who represented trucking companies in major road crashes. A night of anecdotes with him destroyed my perspective on this completely.

I don't have anything personal against the average trucker, but I primarily want driverless cars so we can put all of these guys out of work.

If we can get robots to lower accident rates and drive all night without getting sleepy (or, in what I'm sure are rare cases, methed up), I'm sorry, but I'm for it.

I always brake for truckers. I have enormous respect for the good haulers out there. I still hope they disappear in my lifetime.


Just yesterday, I had a friend get run off the road and total her car because of a careless truck driver. The driver of the semi left the scene and came back only after another truck driver stopped to help my friend and got on the radio and told the driver who caused the wreck to come back or he would make sure he lost his trucking license.

There are good and bad people regardless of the profession.


I've worked in the trucking industry for the past six years and I find this article pretty accurate. However, all of the problems that this driver is faced with can be largely impacted by better decision making and planning on the company side. Then again, I'm heavily biased since this is exactly the type of software I work on every day.

We have products to help companies choose which freight to run to maximize profit (and which to get rid of), find optimal truck/order combinations to minimize cost/time of haul, to determine where the truck should buy fuel (and how much) for his current order to minimize fuel cost, and track the asset in near real time to ensure management knows when it will be late or off route (much easier to re-schedule the drop a day or two ahead, for example). We've even put considerable effort to optimize a swap of trailers between trucks on the road so that a driver can get home in an emergency.

I am unsure about the burden of fuel on the driver, as many of our carriers have fuel cards for drivers to purchase fuel (sometimes constrained to our locations/amounts to ensure compliance) and the company usually charges a fuel surcharge back to the customer anyways. I work with both very large and very small carriers but I obviously don’t know the specifics of this driver’s situation.

As far as the government involvement, the driver's hours of service are logged electronically because it was all too common for drivers to carry multiple log books (and use the one which allowed them to keep driving to make a drop). Electronic logging is a good thing. Personally, I think 11 hours behind the wheel of a 45,000lb semi-truck is probably enough for one day. Incidentally, they can drive 11 hours per day up to 70 hours total before they have to take 34 hours off in a row.

Hauling freight isn't easy and they deserve some respect. Our Nation would crawl to a halt in a matter of days if they stopped doing their jobs. Try to cut them a little more slack and room on the road.


Why is this on HN? I don't flip off truckers, or anyone else unless they drive dangerously enough to put me at risk. It has nothing to do with programming or economics, and none of us are experts in transit policy. {Edit: or at least, widely known to be.]


It was suggested to me recently that the widespread push into trucking and away from rail for freight had something to do with busting strong railroad unions. I didn't think much of the idea at the time because of historically how powerful the Teamsters were in trucking. However, reading this and considering how many owner operators there are that have apparently been subjected to declining wages and worsening working conditions, I wonder if there might be some truth to that suggestion about rail vs. trucks. Obviously there are other advantages to trucking, but does anyone think there is some validity there?


Speed and flexibility perhaps? There are significantly more trucks than there are trains, for one. I imagine there's an incentive to fill a train to capacity whereas you can contract as many trucks as you need for a particular load.

Further, a bunch of trucks can go from one distribution point to many different unloading points a train may not be able to reach.

I imagine the explosion in consumer shipping and expectations of two-day shipping from a number of companies has changed the dynamic. A hundred Ted's ordering iphone cases isn't the same as one Bob ordering a hundred head of sheep.

Just some thoughts; I don't have any knowledge about the industry, or the state of the railways.


To try to add Hacker News relevance to this story and its discussion: doesn't this show it's high time for truck-driving robots to free humans from this dreary job? Robots who won't, in the midst of personal anguish, be stressed about passing another truck to stay a few miles per hour faster? The displaced jobs would make way for more fulfilling, higher paying jobs as truck robot sysadmins and the truck robot YCombinator startup founders.


Most of the anger I see at trucks (and truck-drivers) is just ignorance of the physical limitations on trucks. They are big, so the rules of inertia mean they take longer to speed up and slow down, and they have limited visibility on the sides. Often the stories I hear about people nearly run off the road by a truck begins with the car hovering in the truck's blind-spot. I've seen drivers pull in front of a truck and then slam on the brakes to make a turn, almost causing an accident with the slower-stopping truck. Or passing a truck on the right as it is making a wide right turn. Good way to become a subcompact-sandwich. My favorite is when a truck turns on it's signal to change lanes prompting the cars around him to quickly fill that lane in an effort to 'not be behind a truck'. Awesome to keep the truck from making his turn/exit guys.

If you have trucker-angst I suggest you go rent a large vehicle - like make a road-trip in an RV. It'll open your eyes on how poorly the cars around a large vehicle will accommodate you. And how what you thought of as 'bad truck driver behavior' may just be the physical limitations of the vehicle he's driving.


The truck driver and his company is also exploiting the highway "commons" and passing most of the costs on you, the auto driver. Almost all damage and wear on U.S. roads comes from heavy trucks, and the gas taxes paid by truckers come nowhere near covering the cost they inflict on the highway system. So next time you are stuck in traffic in a construction zone, you can thank the big rigs.


Have you ever looked into what it takes just to hook a trailer with a bobcat on it to your pickup and pull it as part of your business? Next time you get close to a big truck, take a look at all of the regulatory stickers plastered all over it. Every single one of those costs many thousands of dollars per year. I assure you the trucks pay their fair share and then some.

Compared to trucks, you basically use the roads for free on their dime.


This isn't true. Auto drivers pay more than their fair share for the roads-- the gas tax actually also subsidizes some passenger rail and other forms of transportation.

Again, just because heavy trucks pay extra taxes doesn't mean that they cover their impact on the road system.

"Passenger vehicles account for 93 percent of all vehicle miles traveled on public roads in the United States. While large trucks account for just 7 percent of the miles traveled, they account for the most damage to the infrastructure."

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/otps/costallocation.htm


It also says:

"In the 1997 HCAS combination trucks were found, on average, to pay 90 percent of their Federal highway cost responsibility through user fees, but with changes in the fuel tax they now pay only 80 percent of their cost responsibility. The heaviest combinations, those over 80,000 pounds, pay only half of their cost responsibility."

So most trucks you see on the road pay 80-90% of their way already from a purely federal fuel-tax dollar standpoint. The gas tax is just the beginning for trucks. Now consider state licensing fees, permits, mandatory inspections, tolls that increase exponentially per axle, and what must be the ridiculous cost of compliance. Between the DMV and the DOT the papers that need filing fill a 3-ring every year, and there's a fee every other page. (I suppose the question of whether or not that money makes it back into road maintenance is bound to come up but that seems like a whole different issue.)

Seriously, put a sheep in the back of a pickup in Fresno and try to drive him to Seattle without doing anything illegal.


@ Noonespecial Exactly the point I was making also.


Those little stickers on the sides of trucks with states on them are not there for decoration...they are tax stamps. They must be purchased on a per state basis depending on which states you intend on operating in...that combined with fuel tax and other taxes imposed on the drivers mean they probably pay far more than you do per mile to use the highway systems.

Loads are limited by weight per axle as to minimize the damage on the roads...not to mention that on a per pound of useful goods basis they are far more efficient than driving your 4000lb car to just haul your 100-300lb ass.

Where I live the majority of road damage is due to studded tires or weather...next time you are on a rutted highway notice how its not rutted for the dual tires that trucks have but it fits a normal car perfectly.


And that truck is delivering the goods that you buy, so it seems to me that it washes out in the end.


If trucks paid their way, more goods would travel by freight rail.


Hugely, massively ignorant. For one, much of the funding for roads comes from taxing gas, which truckers pay proportionately for.

Beyond that, have you ever bothered to notice those little areas on the side of highways called weigh stations? You know, the ones where you don't have to stop? Yeah.

If anything, the subsidy runs from truckers to casual drivers, not the other way around.


If you are going to engage in name-calling, at least cite a source. There are multiple studies that show that heavy trucks destroy roads and bridges (one truck causes 9,600 times more wear than a car) and also that heavy trucks are disproportionately dangerous, killing about 5,000 people a year.

The point is that heavy trucks don't pay enough taxes to cover their actual impact on the road-system.


Good luck getting your goods without them. What would happen if we split all the heavy trucks into several smaller trucks? That would make the problem worse. Besides the primary importance of the highway system is to transport goods and necessary resources to areas not accessible (or not economically practical) by rail/sea.


Actually, splitting the heavy trucks into smaller trucks would be better, paradoxically. Wear and tear on the road increases exponentially with vehicle weight. Weigh stations account for this by increasing the cost per pound for larger weight classes of truck.

The reason it doesn't happen is because then you've got to pay additional drivers, which outweighs the cost savings from avoiding the additional road use taxes.


For one, much of the funding for roads comes from taxing gas

I feel the need to add the qualifier that this is true of federal roads, but less so as we talk about local roads. I realize the story pertains to the interstate system, but as a cyclist the widespread misconception that gas tax funds all roads and other users are somehow freeloaders is quite detrimental.


Our dependence on truck drivers is artificial though, right? We should be depending more on rail. And yes, someone will drive the cargo from the train station to the walmart, but it wont be a long haul driver. It will be someone with a predictable job who gets to go to funerals and goes home every night.


Everything you buy at the store and everything you order online moves by truck. Planes and trains can't get it to your house or grocery store.

Not by long-distance trucks that this article describes, though. Those trucks drive from the airport to the city center, and then from the city center to individual homes.

Say you buy something from Amazon. Their fulfillment center is co-located with UPS' hub at Louisville Airport. Your box leaves Amazon and goes on a plane to your city. Then, a short-distance truck picks up the package, it's taken to the UPS distribution center, and another truck takes it to your house. No 10 hour days. No driving 500 miles to see your sister in the hospital. No nights away from your family.

Anyway, it's very possible to own stuff that was not delivered to you by a long-distance trucker, despite what the article says.


That's one example - if you get air shipping. If you get ground shipping, not so much.

Also, I think his bigger point was the "everything you buy _at the store_" comes from a truck part.


Why isn't the moral of this story "trucks are terrible, we should transport more freight by rail"?


I agree that that's probably a good way to mitigate the problem, but the U.S. already does transport a surprisingly large amount of freight by rail, with relatively little fanfare. It's a lot more than Europe, for example, which has much more high-profile passenger trains, but much lower use of freight rail. The last time I looked up statistics, it was about 35% of American freight going by rail, versus about 10% of EU-nation freight. Obviously 35% could go up, but it's not too bad. It just feels like we have fewer trains than we do, because as a human wanting to get places you can't easily take them.

A bigger problem might be the geographic distribution of truck vs. rail traffic. Rail traffic dominates in the transcontinental trips, because it's a lot cheaper to ship bulk cargo or shipping containers by rail from LA to Chicago, than by truck. But open-road inter-city trucking from LA to Chicago is relatively safe. Where trucks are most dangerous is within-urban-area transit, in congested metropolitan areas, but those are also the hardest to replace. For example, Safeway alone sends thousands of trucks out daily to supply its grocery stores; much of the produce is moved from ships to a local staging area by rail, but the last 10 miles to the actual store goes by truck. It'll be very difficult to replace that, unless we return to the days of a dense rail network where businesses had their own local rail sidings for deliveries.


Well, Rail is efficient in that it ships huge quantities...fifty, or a hundred standardized containers. Trucks do a bit less than one of those, and so are -amazing- if you only have to ship that much between points C and W (point A being a manufacturer in Asia, b being a port, and C being a major freight station)

Rail is a great solution for a specific portion of that network, but it becomes very, very inefficient if you're only moving one box of goods to a town, and in a nation this size, with as dispersed a population as ours, you simply cannot manage the outlay of hundreds of thousands of railway spikes...and taken to the smaller position, you'd still need trucks unless the railways went to each and every department store.


Maybe there will be a followup on the driver-hate generated by lengthy RR crossing waits and some stories about folks dying while trying to beat a train to the crossing.


I find it interesting that hackers of all people are so polarized about this article. I wonder if working in an industry with such a high customer turn-over rate where you either make it big or try something else has desensitized us to the fact the masses of people paying us $0.99 for our apps are still people.

Especially those of us in jobs with absolutely no customer service aspect whatsoever. I wonder if it would help to require everyone in a company to respond to a couple emails a week would help them feel more attached to the people actually using the product (In a way, Opera does this with their Desktop Team blog by having different people write a blurb before the change log).


Trucking something 1000 miles is silly. One large canal boat can transport about 70 truckloads (4x3x6 containers). Average speed over 1000 miles is the same since they don't stop for breaks. Works great in Northern Europe. You still need trucks for the fine grained distribution of course, but over time all large companies make sure they are located on a canal.

Digging canals is very expensive of course but they don't hurt the environment nearly as much as (rail)roads and it's a text book way to get the economy going. Many of the canals in Europe were actually dug during the depression of the last century when there was lots of unemployment.


Let me tell you his future. He/She will be replaced by a self driving truck.


> You can't tell by looking at him, but two hours ago he took a call informing him that his only sister was involved in a car accident, and though everything possible was done to save her, she died. They had flown her to a trauma hospital in Detroit, but it was too late.

Oh, come on. This is where I closed the tab; the story was sad enough without making it into a Christmas special.

edit: Wasn't aware that this was an actual incident. Still, picking the sappiest possible story isn't very representative.


Unfortunately, if you had read until the end, you would have seen that this is a true story...


I pretty much stopped getting mad at truckers when two things happened:

1) I learned that many trucks have 24 gears. Could you imagine having to downshift and upshift 10 or 12 times every time somebody cuts you off?

2) I started riding motorcycles. As a motorcyclist, whether or not you are in the right, if you tangle with a truck you're dead. So, instant respect for trucks. I want them to see me, and I want them to like me.


Moral of the story: Don't be a dick.

I can't remember the last time I flipped someone off. Certainly not some truck driver passing another truck slower than I would like. I reserve the middle finger for the epically stupid, where someone has done something exceedingly dangerous.


What irks me is they they expect us to understand they're limited to a certain speed, but when there's a down hill and drivers need to brake to stop going over the speed limit, we get gestures made at us. Double standards.


If you brake going downhill on a long-distance highway you shouldn't be driving.


The UK government loves putting cameras on down hill sections of roads.

Anyway, my point was they get angry you are not speeding, not the method you use to prevent speeding.


A truck passing another truck isn't necessarily objectionable, but when they're on a hill and spend multiple minutes doing it (and sometimes even give up), I get very annoyed.


During college I was on a road trip with friends and we stopped at a rest stop on the interstate. After a while a trucker came over carrying a tire iron and looking ready to use it. He was so strung out on uppers he had decided we were all laughing at him. Scary...


This article seems to only apply to American truck drivers.


How is this in any way HN material?


It doesn't matter, if HN users legitimately voted it onto the front page, it's by definition HN material.


So if I get a bunch of people interested in professional bicycle racing to sign up for HN, we can upvote all our favorite articles and it will be HN material because a lot of us voted for it? The problem with that definition is that there's no "entry exam" or anything like that.


I wouldn't consider that "legitimately voted onto the front page". Moderators would step in and remove it.


Not necessarily, or things would never get killed off the front page by the mods.


Well, it hasn't been killed yet, has it? ;)


[deleted]


It just means that the HN audience is also a subset of reddit's audience.


It should have been buried by the ops. Most people don't come here to read such things, so you waste their time. What's more, the audience is not exactly sympathetic to sentimental pieces so it's bound to be treated harshly.


Is this place reddit now?


so...don't flip off truck drivers? Seems easy enough.


Every truck drivers sister has just died moments ago? That's sad.


Am I the only one here thinking up a way to code hands-free and taking a year off as a trucker? Let's face it, it's pretty much what we do all day anyway. Plus traffic.


Coding takes concentration, and so does driving. The problem is that on a highway, split-second reflexes are called upon infrequently. This makes it even more important to give the road your full attention.

Also see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2012393/Distracting-...


Solution: Do it with a buddy and pair program. You're just having a conversation about the code, I do that while driving all the time. You can work and drive in shifts. Roaming the wireless streets. That would be great!


So. Your job sucks. Your sister is dead. You get paid jack shit. And you're the one in control of delivering goods to everyone. And somehow you're thick enough to think that driving like a douche is the answer to your problems? Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

I remember when I was a kid, french truck drivers (hundreds of them) blocked the roads because they were pissed off. They did this for days. Guess what? They got (mostly) what they wanted in the end.

If, as this article implies, there is something wrong with the trucking industry, then you should take proper and responsible action. Protest. Park a truck in front of the white house. Whatever.

But driving like a dickwad, breaking laws that are meant to keep others save & endangering lives is not acceptable. Especially not for a shitty wage.


You know what? If your job is crap, quit, or demand more pay. I never bought this "I have a hard job, so you should be nice to me" crap. You get compensated for your job. If you don't get compensated well enough, that's your problem.

And as for all the schedule crap? Also not my fault. I didn't make you late. I didn't regulate the speed on your rig. (And yes, that DOES make it safer, especially when you're running non-stop and tired.)

However, you -did- get in my way. For a long time. 3mph? Cripes, do you know how long it takes to move a rig around another rig at 3mph more while being safe?

Suck it up, buddy. You take crap from your boss, your co-workers, and anyone else at your workplace or your client's workplace, and you have the nerve to get upset at someone who isn't getting paid to deal with your crap?


> You know what? If your job is crap, quit, or demand more pay. I never bought this "I have a hard job, so you should be nice to me" crap. You get compensated for your job. If you don't get compensated well enough, that's your problem.

That's easy to say if you're skills are in high demand. If they aren't, any you have a family to feed, it can be a much harder position to take. For many people their options may be limited to putting up with a crappy job or living on the street. And often it's through no fault of their own. Not everyone has what it takes to be a rock star software engineer.


Upvote for that. There are a lot of brilliant people on HN but they seem to forget that to a large degree they are in the right place at the right time. You have a great career because you work in a field that is in very high demand at the moment, it isn't because you are intrinsically awesome.


Not everyone has what it takes to be a rock star software engineer.

Everyone is in a position to improve themselves. Take a class, get a degree, network, learn a skill.

It is not easy. But this is not the same thing as impossible.


That depends. Sometimes economics can make it impossible. Beyond that, if you read the article, it's not uncommon for truck drivers to only have one free day per week. How quickly can you learn a completely new skill set if you only have one day a week (a day, I might add, which is also your only rest day)?


Sometimes economics can make it impossible.

Sometimes, sure. More often people who _say_ they are stuck are not stuck so much as lacking imagination, or will.

How quickly can you learn a completely new skill set if you only have one day a week

I know that is a hypothetical but I'll take a crack at it.

- Cut expenses. There is always slack in a budget.

- Cut hours. The 6-day work week is for over the road - Get a teamster job working local.

- I've now got nights and weekends free, leaving me oodles of time to get cracking on mastering that new skill.


I've had quite a few jobs in my life, and only one of them was crap. And it was for a skill that was in "high demand"!

There are better employers out there. Employees who work for bad employers are enabling them. By not quitting, they're not only ruining their own life, but other people's too.


>However, you -did- get in my way.

it isn't your way, it is a public way. If you see any violations in his behavior - just call Highway Police. Otherwise, learn to deal with the fact that not everybody and everything in this life is created to satisfy your every whims.

>Suck it up, buddy.

yep, suck it up, buddy.


Monopolizing a public thoroughfare for the duration it takes one elongated vehicle to pass another with a 3MPH delta should be illegal enough to result in a fine when it impedes the free flow of traffic IMO. For as much as claims of safety are thrown about, people should spend more time looking at how congestion causes and compounds accidents.

Maybe if they weren't over-regulated* and actually assigned the costs associated with blocking traffic, the trucking companies could come up with something as novel as a 'governor override budget'. I.e., "If you find yourself in a situation where you need to pass and it'd be best for everyone involved if you actually get it over with, you may do so. Just don't expect to spend the whole trip at the higher speeds because you only accrue so many override minutes per hour and you need to save them for complications that may arise. There are gas prices to consider, after all."

If we're going to insist on having humans behind the wheel, I assume it's because they have the capacity to reason. Ultimately, we need to incent them properly and then trust their judgement.

* Speed limits significantly below the 85th percentile of traffic == revenue. Also, penalizing motorists (who have, by definition, opted out of public transportation) by failing to build additional, needed lanes.


>Monopolizing a public thoroughfare for the duration it takes one elongated vehicle to pass another with a 3MPH delta should be illegal enough to result in a fine when it impedes the free flow of traffic IMO.

have you ever drove a U-Haul truck? Let alone a 40 ton one? Do you understand the accident risk (and scale of a damage, just an example of pretty light one http://www.10news.com/news/24315900/detail.html) of a fully loaded semi trailer making a pass at - how fast would you like it to go instead of 68mph? - would 80mph be enough for you? Do you really think you're a better judge of how to safely drive the truck than the truck driver actually driving it and who does have economic incentive to go as fast as it is possible while still ensure the high probability of making it to the destination?


We seem to be in agreement that our wised truck driver should be the judge of whether or not it's safe to pass. My point is that, should he judge the speed of his peer (who he's stuck behind at 65MPH) to be intolerably low, he should not have the option to pass at a reasonable rate precluded by a bureaucrat who lacks his experience and detailed knowledge of the situation.

How fast? In Minnesota (where I'm from and also where the article was published) I can tell you offhand that a recent figure for the 85th percentile speed on rural freeways is 79MPH (that means three out of every 20 drivers are going even faster). Does the truck need to go that fast? Only if it's in the left lane while cars are present.


He's asking me to be polite while failing to be polite himself. I have no tolerance for that.


Wait, what? Using the left lane to pass is impolite?

> I have no tolerance for that.

Being polite? Clearly.


> "However, you -did- get in my way. For a long time. 3mph? Cripes, do you know how long it takes to move a rig around another rig at 3mph more while being safe?"

3mph ~= 4 ft/s. Some of the longest semis are 60ft. One clearing the other is 120ft, lets over-estimate and say 200. 200/4 roughly a minute, again, if we over estimate.

So, you cannot wait a minute. And, remember, you're going a constant ~65mph or so in your car at the time -- so it's not like you're at a dead stop.

Instead of jumping the obvious conclusion about your likely personality defects, I would suggest that you take some time to think about why you're so angry about being limited to 65, or even 60 mph for a minute, assuming you're not rushing to the hospital.


Actually, if you are a consumer, you did do most of that. This is the reality of market pressures at the very end of the line. We still need humans to drive trucks -- but we expect them to be superhuman.

I find this post saddening. How little we care about the people responsible for all the things we take for granted in life.


Everyone is affected by 'market pressures', so I don't buy that cop-out either.

I'm serious here: If you do not like your job, demand more money, better working conditions, or quit and find a better one.

The first 2 of those are what unions were designed to fix. If the truck driving industry (freight industry?) is so horrible, why haven't they unionized and fixed it? If they have unionized, why is their union so ineffective?

I do pity people who think they have dug a hole so deep they can't get out of it. Mainly because they are -wrong-. They have allowed the world to walk allover them and have stopped considering that they can better themselves.


The unions exist to do things like limit how much they drive in a day -- before truck driving unions and such, drivers were basically expected to drive whatever it took to get their load where it was going. This was, obviously, horribly unsafe.

But unions aren't a magic fix for everything.

Also, how quickly we of the first world are to assume that you can just up and change jobs. It's easy when you sit at a desk. It's not easy when all you've ever done is drive a truck, or work at a factory, or done construction.

Your intolerance disgusts me, honestly.


You act like anyone who performs unskilled labor is a victim.

I feel for people who are in a difficult situation, but I expect them to work their way out of it. And the great thing about this country is: they can if they use their wits and are willing to work harder than most people can imagine.


You seriously underestimate exactly how hard being a truck driver is.

Random internet challenge: Be a truck driver for a month. Then come back to this thread.


Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle. ~John Watson, 1897


> However, you -did- get in my way. For a long time. 3mph?

So what? Who are you to deserve the right of way? If you don't want to get stuck behind a truck, get off the road. Suck it up.

Hell, it's your fault. You take crap from these drivers. It's your fault, your problem, not theirs. Flipping them off is the best you can do, and it's pitiful.

And yeah, I don't see any reason people should be nice to you.

> I never bought this "I have a hard job, so you should be nice to me" crap.

But you did buy into the "Be an ass" crap, didn't you?


However, you -did- get in my way. For a long time. 3mph? Cripes, do you know how long it takes to move a rig around another rig at 3mph more while being safe?

By my calculations, about a minute and a half at the absolute most. So if you were intending to pass both trucks at 80 mph, and assuming the passing truck moves back into the right lane when safely able to, this fiasco adds approximately 10-15 seconds to your commute. Oh the horror.




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