Passing You on Two-Lane Highways

Last Edited: July 19, 2019 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

Passing You on Major Two-Lane Highways

Two-lane highways (with one lane in each direction, typically with no median separating the lanes and with surface street and/or driveway entries and exits) are often just a means for me to connect from one interstate or major highway to another.  On other trips they serve as the most direct and cost-effective routes to a pickup or delivery destination.  I don’t drive on two-lane highways, even on national (US-XXX) highways any more than necessary, nor do I pass often because of my truck’s speed and acceleration limitations.

However even on nice two-lane, relatively straight highways with wide lanes and shoulders, some vehicles travel so slowly that I find it necessary to get by them.  Examples are farm equipment being moved from one field to another, personal vehicles towing heavily loaded trailers or other vehicles, personal vehicle drivers who live locally and choose to ease along at 5 to 10 mph (miles per hour) below the speed limit, and vehicles travelling very slowly in bad weather and/or bad road conditions (see the Passing You in Bad Weather and/or Bad Road Conditions tip).  I do have to be careful of local drivers slowing as they approach a side road or driveway.

In preparing to pass you, I may have to encroach into your lead threshold when I can see that there are no obvious obstructions or emergency situations ahead (see the Passing You Basics tip).  When we come to a passing lane or suitable stretch of highway with a clearing in on-coming traffic, I will signal and accelerate as much as possible in the opposing lane.  Some drivers slow down for me.  Others do not.  I hope you will be alert and safety-aware enough to let me by.

(NOTE:  You may have to yield to drivers whose trucks have more power, acceleration and speed than mine and who may be more familiar with the highway you’re on and its best passing areas.  Depending on your speed, expect them to be more aggressive in passing you.)

Passing Me on Major Two-Lane Highways

On two-lane highways, 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 some situations I slow down to let personal vehicles pass more easily, but bear in mind that my job is to drive as fast as I can safely and lawfully.  My truck’s top cruising speed is limited to 65 mph (miles per hour).  Your personal vehicle can usually accelerate past me safely and lawfully.

My truck loses significant momentum when I slow down, and it takes time and extra fuel to get back to my former speed.  So to enable you to pass without help from me, I would rather wait for some traffic or road condition such as a traffic stop light, a grade that my truck will lug down on, a passing lane or a straight stretch of highway clear of oncoming traffic.  (I do watch your pass closely in case I have to slow down to let you in front of me before oncoming traffic arrives.)

As a courtesy to faster truck drivers, I let them pass on straight stretches of two-lane highway clear of oncoming traffic by slowing down and/or pulling onto the right shoulder.  They need the extra help to clear my truck since their trucks cannot accelerate as quickly as personal vehicles.

Passing on Narrow Back Highways

What I refer to as “back highways” typically are not major national (US-XXX) highways, but more likely paved state highways and county and local roads.  The road surfaces may not be as well maintained and smooth as the interstates and major highways.  They may have more rolls, bumps, potholes, repair patches, joints and seams, and washboarding or troughs.  The surfaces may stray farther from level (for example, tilt markedly toward the shoulders, away from the center line to shed standing water).  Such surfaces cause my truck to buck and heave, rock and roll, lean and shake more.

Many of these roads are narrow and either have no shoulders or pavement-to-dirt shoulder drop offs.  A single lane may be as little as 10 1/2 to 11 feet wide.  The width of my trailer is 102 inches.  The maximum width of my tractor including the side mirrors is about 118 inches (nearly 10 feet).  When I steer my truck so the outer edges of the right outside tandem (trailer) tires and right outside drive tires are 6 inches from the right edge of the lane, the outer edge of my large left side mirror is as little as 10 inches away from the highway center line.  The clearance with an oncoming truck’s large side mirror can be 20 inches (1 2/3 feet).  These are small safety margins if both trucks are travelling at 60 or 65 mph (miles per hour).

So these highways are more difficult to drive on.  I may not feel safe driving at a speed limit of 65 mph.  I definitely will not use cruise control.  It is much less likely that I will pass any vehicles on them.  Faster trucks and personal vehicles may pass me if they get an opportunity.  The problem with passing is that these highways are less likely to have straight sections with no oncoming traffic.  Many lead over variable terrain through hills and valleys or through mountainous country and/or wind through forests. These roads offer fewer straight sections with the necessary forward vision to check for breaks in oncoming traffic.  Traffic on them can still be relatively heavy between towns, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours.  Your best bet to get by my truck may be when we pass through a town with at least one traffic stop and where the highway expands to a multi-lane main street.

Passing on Extreme (“Scenic”) Highways

Winding, narrow two-lane highways such as those on “scenic” routes are even more difficult to navigate because of truck length and width, and some are off-limits to trucks.  On the trucks-permitted highways I steer close to the right edge of the road on curves to my left.  This minimizes off-tracking of my trailer tandems into the opposing lane.  On curves to my right I steer close to the center line so my off-tracking trailer tandems stay on the road.  On very sharp “hair pin” curves I may have to take some of the opposing lane, either with my trailer tail or front of my truck.  If you are approaching in the opposing lane, you can help by slowing down to give my truck room on those curves.  Some bridges on back highways are so narrow that my driver’s large side mirror clears the mirror of an oncoming truck by mere inches.  A few bridges are so narrow that trucks are banned from them.

On winding highways and those with narrow bridges you really have to “pick your spot” to pass me.  I will by necessity be driving relatively slowly and will work to help you.  I probably will not be able to pass any vehicles unless their drivers pull off the highway onto a turnout, or turn onto a side street in town.

Reminders

After passing a truck, I hope you’ll advance beyond your two second minimum lead threshold (see the Passing Me Basics tip) as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.  When you’re trailing a truck in winter or in bad weather and/or bad road conditions, there is an additional advantage to a longer following distance.  Per a great message that I saw on the back of one trailer, stay back when you see snow or ice on the top of a trailer in front of you.  This is because chunks of snow or ice blowing off can hit and damage your vehicle’s windshield or body if you are driving too close.

Takeaways

Be patient in choosing a safe place to pass a truck on two-lane highways.

After passing a truck, leave a two second lead threshold or greater as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.

On narrow, winding highways, give trucks room to negotiate sharp “hairpin” curves.

Increase your following distance behind a truck in winter or bad weather and/or bad road conditions, or if you see snow or ice on top of its trailer.

Drivers in lower powered, governed trucks may not try to pass you on back highways and scenic highways unless you pull onto a turnout or provide an opportunity in town.

When a truck driver trailing your vehicle signals and swings into the opposing lane to pass, let her by you.

Be prepared to yield to truck drivers who have trucks with the necessary power, acceleration and speed and familiarity with the highway you’re on to pass you aggressively.

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