There are several references to passing in other chapters, and this chapter will draw from those and will include other aspects and situations. The observations and advice in this chapter will be based primarily on my perspective as driver of a tractor towing 53 foot long “dry vans.” These big box trailers are the most numerous on our highways and are used to haul a wide variety of freight. I have served many different customers throughout the continental United States and Canada.
My tractor is governed at a speed of 65 mph (actually a fraction less than 65 miles per hour). Speed limits on most interstates west of the Mississippi River and some city freeways exceed 65 mph, and in good weather and road conditions faster trucks and personal vehicles routinely pass my truck safely and lawfully. Because of my speed limitation, on the open road (in sparse traffic, usually in rural areas) I am more often in the position of “passee” than “passer.”
On the open road (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in the countryside), I drive predominantly in the right lane and crowd the right shoulder. This gives faster vehicles an extra safety margin to pass my truck on my left. It helps not only personal vehicle drivers but also truck drivers, especially those with wider than normal loads such as heavy haulers. Faster trucks also travel in the right lane except when passing. On two-lane highways (one lane in each direction), crowding to the right increases the safety margin for both oncoming traffic and traffic passing me. Also it helps drivers behind me see road and traffic conditions ahead of us more easily in deciding whether it’s safe to pass.
In my infrequent opportunities to pass vehicles on interstates and other major highways and on two-lane highways, I work to provide a similar safety margin by crowding the left shoulder. In multiple-lane city freeway traffic, I sometimes drive in one of the left lanes to navigate more easily and to free the right lane for entering and exiting vehicles.
Governing is a key factor in my ability to pass you. It hampers my ability on the open road to get by slower vehicles since most of these will be travelling at close to my maximum speed. Governing is quite common among trucking companies. Some other companies’ trucks are governed at faster speeds than mine, and some companies and owner operators may choose not to govern their trucks. Where safe and lawful, many truck drivers can travel at significantly greater speeds, as fast as the fastest personal vehicles on the flats and can pass slower vehicles much more easily than I. In good conditions fast trucks will expose slower personal vehicle drivers to risk zones for smaller periods of time than my truck will.
We will focus primarily on my passing you in adjacent lanes, either on the left or right, typically on interstates with two lanes in each direction or city freeways with three or more lanes in each direction. A number of observations and tips in this chapter will focus on the more complex situations and maneuvers on busy city freeways. It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the risk zones around my truck that you will be put in (see the Risk Zones chapter). In certain respects my interactions with traffic are necessarily different from those experienced by drivers in faster trucks and the key differences will be mentioned.
Passing you on two-lane highways will be addressed in a separate tip in this chapter.
On the open road (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in the countryside), expect trucks to travel in the right lane and crowd the right shoulder when not passing.
Many trucks are governed, which limits their maximum cruising speed and hampers their ability to pass other vehicles.
Most personal vehicles can pass a truck governed at 65 mph.
On the open road where safe and lawful, ungoverned trucks can travel as fast as personal vehicles.