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Old 12-10-2011, 12:50 PM   #29
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[onsoapbox] As an OTR (over the road) trucker for many years I'm dismayed by the average truck driver competence that I see on the roads today. A quick way to judge the competence of a truck driver is to observe his ability to stay centered in his lane because it's a direct indicator of skill and attention level.. . . What I see on the highways these days indicates to me that there are mostly green and marginally competent drivers out there and you should make all efforts to stay out of close proximity to them because no good can ever come from rolling along in close quarters to them . . . . Always do what you have to to keep the odds in your favor. [/onsoapbox]
That is a post I've bookmarked. Thanks, Crusty, very well said, as many or most truck drivers are not a problem to others . . but the ones who are need to be identified (behavior). The use of mirrors is new to all drivers new to towing. Take that for granted. Nearly all the rest of us need to improve. What is behind me is the future (as most traffic is overtaking me; as it should be) and winds or fatigue or distractions may cause several types of big truck handling problems for their drivers.

I do not ever recommend staying over to the right of the lane. One may need all of the lane maneuvering room one has. This is important. Plus, it only encourages those overtaking and passing (two separate time/distance occasions) to continue their bad behavior (all other vehicles). By maintaining "lane-centeredness" for nearly all miles I am exerting the discipline and control towing demands. And it tends to focus the passing driver (a narrower passage past me).

But when I see a vehicle coming up that is looking like a problem I'm off the cruise control and ready to move to the right of the lane as they transition from overtaking to passing. (By ready, I mean I have any slack out of the steering/hitch rigging taken up). I drop off in speed at the transition moment. Sometimes even braking (trailer first: keep the rigging taut) to absolutely minimize our vehicle proximity time. And then speed back up some as I do not want them moving back to the right lane too soon. Once they do I slow again, slightly, until a very sizeable gap emerges when I can re-establish travel speed.

The use of mirrors here is of the quality of "peripheral vision". I need to know where I may take this rig in the event of a problem. A good thing to practice. Always an out. Watching the problem vehicle is not conducive to best practice . . in fact it may make matters worse.

I would say that most long days of travel involve this pattern a few times. I don't think it unusual. Someone is always traveling faster than they should be (too fast for conditions). A "rogue" is something else entirely, a threat that is not at all accidental.

I don't expect to have to record license and other vehicle identifying characteristics, but as I have a trip plan already written out, it serves for note-taking as well. (Trip plans include alternate stops; so an early break at a truckstop or rest area is sometimes indicated depending on a gut feeling by "who" is out there).

.
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Old 12-10-2011, 02:05 PM   #30
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I forgot to add ...

I totally forgot to mention (probably because it's unconscious to me now) that the way to judge your lane position is to quickly look at the trailer wheels in both mirrors and compare the space between the wheels and the lane markers. When the gaps are equal you're in the center. You quickly learn how much space is correct for your rig and a glance at one mirror will usually verify your position.

One very good reason for staying off of the shoulder is that's where the trash lives and many bad things wind up lying there just waiting to jump up and hurt your tv, trailer and maybe even you.

I'd really like to instruct everyone here in the Smith System of Safe Driving but it's one of those things that's very hard to do in written words but very easy to learn riding around with someone demonstrating it to you. Seriously a 30 minute drive with an instructor can completely change your mindset about driving and when it's done correctly is exhausting because of the concentrated attention required. It also increases your safety on the road by at least a factor of 10 because hardly anything catches you by surprise. Maybe I can try to make a video and post it on Youtube.

One other tip that just occurred to me to mention. When you're in a tight spot like in a soon to occur wreck, your vehicle is going to go where you're looking (an unconscious tendency that we all share). If you stare at the side of the car which pulled out in front of you, that's where you're going to hit. So, when you get in one of these LOOK FOR THE OPENING TO SAFETY and that's where you'll steer your vehicle unconsciously.
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Old 12-11-2011, 12:08 AM   #31
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Ooh, fab, guys, thanks. I've always looked up to the pro truckers out on the road, and I'd love to see a vid on the Smith System, Crusty. All props.
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Old 12-11-2011, 09:00 AM   #32
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A short video of the Smith System

I did find one short video with an instructor demonstrating the Smith System and speaking aloud what he sees and thinks as he drives while using it.
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Old 12-11-2011, 10:49 AM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crusty View Post
......One other tip that just occurred to me to mention. When you're in a tight spot like in a soon to occur wreck, your vehicle is going to go where you're looking (an unconscious tendency that we all share). If you stare at the side of the car which pulled out in front of you, that's where you're going to hitting. So, when you get in one of these LOOK FOR THE OPENING TO SAFETY and that's where you'll steer your vehicle unconsciously.
This is one of the lessons I learned a long time ago riding motorcycles that has served me well over the years. It is amazing how true this is. If you visually fixate on a road hazzard or the point of impact with another vehicle, you can quickly get into trouble. However, if you are looking at your escape route, you will stand a much better chance of getting out of a dangerous situation.
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Old 12-11-2011, 11:55 AM   #34
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We just returned from a 20,000 mile tour around the northern US. We had many close calls and several confrontations with semis. I have no faith in the abilities of the truck drivers who we are expected to share the road with. One of the truckers used a spot light to blind us as well. The level of aggressiveness is probably related to their use of meth. We have started keeping a camera on the dash so that we can document an event or report an aggressive & unsafe driver.
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Old 12-11-2011, 12:21 PM   #35
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In general, I find most truck drivers courteous on the road. I have had encounters with those that are not; one intentionally forced me off the road while I was riding my motorcycle many years ago. I've had a bad encounter with a car driver or two as well in the last 37 years as well, though; however, an idiot in an Miata is somehow less worrisome than one in a Peterbilt.

The best strategy seems to be to be very polite in terms of driving. Always signal your intent, leave lots of room for others and don't merge in front of others and then slow down, etc. Like it or not, we're a often a big obstacle on the road when pulling our 'Streams - we're 45+ feet long, and generally moving at 15 mph below the rest of traffic, at least in California. It's sort of like swing dancing on a crowded dance floor; everyone needs to watch out and plan ahead.

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Old 12-11-2011, 05:00 PM   #36
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No truck driver who expects to be in the business tomorrow will be using meth because of the random drug tests and the inability to fake the log books. I think what you saw was a bunch of overstressed drivers who no longer even have a last nerve for someone to get on.

What I see on the road today are marginally skilled truck drivers who are likely forced to meet an impossible schedule, have to travel in heavy traffic most of the time with brain dead car drivers who are too busy texting or talking to even look up, are routinely robbed by predatory law enforcement and weigh station personnel, who must listen to the often offensive and threatening bull corn on the cb radio, endure long working hours for what ultimately turns out to be about minimum wage, and are gone from home for extended periods of time. The driver turnover rate for most trucking companies has to be through the roof.

The old time truckers are almost all gone now or have changed professions because truck driving has degenerated into an intolerable way to almost make a living. I see so many poor or inexperienced truck drivers out there today it really makes me cringe.
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:05 PM   #37
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I don't agree with the 18 wheel bashings: we are out there all the the time and those truckers are as on top of it as can be. Granted, we'll see some nut cases, but I've seen a hell of a lot more trailer and mo/ho types that put everyone in harm's way. It's a matter of knowing how to drive on faster and faster interstates, when you're not. As I've posted, the new "skirts" the 18-wheelers are running on their trailers these days are very harmfull to your health unless attention is paid when they come breezing by.
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Old 12-11-2011, 09:45 PM   #38
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Truck driving was ruined by being "de-regulated" in the 1970's. What profits there were now no longer go to the man doing the work. Turnover rates are 100% or more on average. The conditions in many of the big companies are terrible (on top of the stresses all experience in this work). That said, the primary cause of truck::car accidents is car driver mistakes.

If car drivers had an understanding of hard it is to do it they'd have a greater appreciation of how little incident there is in concerns big truck and car interactions. The bad truck drivers among them tick off other drivers even more than what the car drivers feel. I've seen other trucks corral a rogue big truck and not let him "escape" until the LEO's arrived. Like an elephant herd it was . . . .

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Old 12-11-2011, 10:17 PM   #39
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Sounds like a Stan Ridgeway song!
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Old 12-12-2011, 09:05 AM   #40
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I am 62, been driving since I was 10 and full timing for 5 years. We are many miles down the road from the time when the truckers owned their own rigs. In the past 20 years a lot has changed. I can empathize with the truck drivers who complain about the increase in traffic but it does not give them the right to endanger the rest of us. This summer we were squeezed off the road by truckers who wanted to hit an off ramp at the last minute, had to lock up all 8 tires to avoid a colision with a semi, changed a lane because the semi to the left of us was distracted while eating his lunch, forced off the road to avoid a flatbed trailer that would have otherwise hit us, purposly blocked by a semi in a construction zone merge, forced to change lanes when a speeding truck comming from behind decided he deserved the lane more than we did in a "murder merge" in Wisconsin, endured tailgating and passes on double yellow zones because we were driving at the speed limit... The conditions on the road have gotten much worse in the past 15 years and these incidents (and many more) happened in each of the 27 states we traveled through. Interestingly we are in an economic downturn and there are fewer trucks and cars on the road but the hazards that the semis create (road gators, eratic driving, somnolent events, aggressive driving, etc) are increasing. Testing or no...meth has become a lethal problem on our hiways. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult for those of us who are towing to avoid the collisions with the semis. We saw signs for reporting aggressive drivers in only two states. Many more strategies and enforced rules for taking incompetent, drug impaired, aggressive drivers off the road are needed.
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Old 12-12-2011, 04:23 PM   #41
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There is no greater "JOY" to me than cruising down the highway in the company of a big rig ( or 2) with an experienced and professional driver. I put myself in that same catagory so that will make 3 of us cruising together. However, there are fewer and fewer of US on the roads. A couple of years ago I was driving a heavy duty tow truck. We had a truck impounded by the police in the yard for documents. When the paperwork was straightened out the truck was released and the driver came to me and asked me to turn it around for her. Our yard was not especially tight and average skills could easily manoever in it. I turned it around but couldn't believe an over-the-road driver that was not able to handle it. That's what we have pulling these big-rigs out there today, so BEWARE. Among the many capable and qualified truckers out there are these good, hard working people, with limited experience that we need to watch for.

Drive defensively and watch out for the other guy.


Merry Christmas and see ya on the road sometime.
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Old 12-12-2011, 05:03 PM   #42
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[onsoapbox] As an OTR (over the road) trucker for many years I'm dismayed by the average truck driver competence that I see on the roads today. A quick way to judge the competence of a truck driver is to observe his ability to stay centered in his lane because it's a direct indicator of skill and attention level. When I drove, as soon as I noticed that I wasn't staying centered in my lane it was time for me to pull over and get some rest. What I see on the highways these days indicates to me that there are mostly green and marginally competent drivers out there and you should make all efforts to stay out of close proximity to them because no good can ever come from rolling along in close quarters to them. Plus, if you've ever seen a 200 lb brake drum suddenly split apart and the cast iron pieces go bouncing down the road you won't like being close to a big truck ever again. Always do what you have to to keep the odds in your favor. [/onsoapbox]
Crusty,

Thanks for the great post. In college I spent my summers doing transfer driving for Ryder, I was trained by one of their over the road drivers and learned very quickly that there were two kinds of drivers "professional" over the road drivers and "crazy" local drivers and also learned very early on to be able to distinguish the two and to keep an extra measure of distance between my rig and the local driver. Sadly, as my recent road trip observations seem to indicate, the level of professionalism amongst over the road drivers has taken a big hit. Fortunately, I didn't have any problems with them, but I could see that there were a lot of accidents looking for a place to happen. So thank you for posting your views and confirming mine.

Stay safe out there,
Rion
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