When You Enter the Right Lane of a Controlled Access Highway on the Open Road

Last Edited: November 13, 2016 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

Basics

On the open road (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in rural areas), driving at or near highway speeds through the countryside and small towns and cities where there is light traffic, I often do change lanes for personal vehicles coming off a ramp ahead of or alongside my truck.  In these areas there can be local drivers who have not driven much in large cities and are less proficient at dealing with heavy traffic and merge contention.  They might be used to trucks moving over for them and expect all trucks to do so.  Providing extra space allows these drivers to accelerate and merge according to their individual comfort levels and their vehicles’ performance capabilities.

Once on the interstate or highway they will commonly accelerate alongside my truck on my right instead of falling back behind my truck.  Since my truck speed is governed at 65 mph (miles per hour), actually slightly less, and speed limits are typically 65 mph or higher, I expect them to promptly pull on by my truck through the risk zones and out of the lead threshold when they can do so safely and lawfully.  (See the Risk Zone tips about being in the right lane next to mine, and especially the Risk Zone:  Close in Front of My Truck and in the Right Lane Next to Mine tip.)

When you’re in this situation, please pull away from my truck as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.  You’ll help me return to the right lane and out of the way of faster drivers behind us.  If you dawdle alongside or close in front of my truck, you put yourself at risk and trap me in the left lane if other drivers pull up alongside my truck behind you.  The lone exception is if you’re going to take an exit within the next mile or so.

I am not concerned about personal vehicles that will obviously come off an entrance ramp behind my truck.  I may just stay in the right lane and let their drivers pass me on the left once they come up to speed.

When a Truck Enters the Right Lane of a Controlled Access Highway on the Open Road

Because of their size and acceleration limitations, I have to treat a truck entering a major highway on the open road differently.  I have to carefully size up its progress on the entrance ramp.  If it is close to the outlet I will make every effort to move from the right lane to the next lane to my left to avoid a close call with me squeezing by and/or forcing the other driver to brake and steer onto the right shoulder to let me by.  If traffic or some other condition prevents a lane change, I may have to brake hard to allow the truck to merge ahead of me.  If the truck is not as far along on the ramp, I can safely drive by without changing lanes because of its slow acceleration.

Whenever possible, you should follow this practice and move over to allow a truck driver room to enter the right lane from an entrance ramp.  If unable to move to a left lane, be prepared to slow down and get behind the truck instead of forcing the driver to brake or run on the shoulder until she finds an opening in right lane traffic.

When You Enter the Right Lane of a Controlled Access Highway on the Open Road Behind a Truck

After following a slowly accelerating truck off an exit ramp into the right lane, personal vehicle drivers understandably prefer to pass it immediately rather than stay behind it until it gets up to highway speed.  Heavy traffic in the left lane or both lanes such as on city freeways can prevent drivers from passing the truck prematurely, forcing them to delay their pass until they are traveling at, or close to highway flow speed.

But on the open road an occasional driver may believe erroneously that there is enough spacing to pass immediately.  The driver may swing into the left lane from behind a truck without allowing adequate space between his vehicle and traffic in that lane behind him.  Changing lanes aggressively in front of a personal vehicle is risky enough, but doing so in front of a truck traveling at highway speed can be lethal.  As a billboard along I-80 in Nevada warns, “Cutting off trucks can cut life short.”  It is always safer to remain patient and stay behind a truck until you’re certain of a safe break in the left lane traffic stream.

Ill-timed lane changing in front of a truck is one example of a general tendency I’ve experienced among personal vehicle drivers.  More than a few personal vehicle drivers have entered streets and highways in front of my truck without leaving an adequate lead threshold, forcing me to slow down (see the Risk Zone:  Close and Directly in Front of My Truck tip).  Perhaps they misjudge the speed of my truck, similar to how people purportedly misjudge the speed of another large object, a train.  Or they underestimate the slowing and/or stopping distance that a truck requires at highway speed.  Or perhaps they simply think that trucks drivers are safer bets to cut in front of than personal vehicle drivers. Not only are their actions risky, but their actions come across as careless and/or inconsiderate.

When I am in the left lane and about to overtake a truck entering the right lane, I watch closely for a personal driver behind the truck who appears tempted to swing out in front of me.  I have to be ready to brake hard or otherwise avoid rear ending the driver who takes the chance.

Takeaways

On the open road (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in rural areas), if a truck has moved to the left lane to let you enter the right lane alongside it, accelerate to a safe lead distance in front or slide back behind it as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.

Whenever possible on the open road, move left to allow a truck driver room to enter the right lane from an entrance ramp.

When entering an interstate or major highway behind a truck, remain patient and stay behind it until you’re certain of a safe pass in a left lane.

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