Why Truckers Do What They Do: It Might Surprise You

You are driving down the interstate when you notice the traffic ahead has slowed. As you approach, you see a flatbed truck carrying a heavy piece of construction equipment in the center lane while another truck, hauling a refrigerated trailer is trying to overtake in the passing lane. Traffic is simultaneously merging from the right.

Though this generally doesn’t bother you, some the drivers ahead are getting frustrated because the truck in the passing lane will not speed up to make the pass and the truck in the center lane won’t slow down to allow it. What you might not know is that the two truck drivers are not purposely trying to be pains in the posterior. As explained by Mytee Products, a distributor of cargo control supplies for truckers, they do what they do for reasons non-professionals are unaware of.

Rear and side view of yellow flatbed semi on highway under blue sky. Horizontal.

The Center Lane Truck

The truck in the center lane is the easier to explain. There are two things at work here. First, it is quite likely that the truck’s speed is governed so that it cannot exceed 65 mph. Even if there is no mechanical or electronic governor involved, the driver may be prohibited by his or her employer from exceeding a certain speed due to the load. Even with the best cargo control practices and the heaviest chains and ratchet straps in the industry, going too fast with some flatbed loads is just dangerous.

Okay, so why not get over to the right lane? Because the driver was trained to drive defensively according to what the industry calls the Smith System. This system is comprised of five main points, including leaving yourself a way out of trouble and being aware of your surroundings.

If a truck driver stays in either the left or right lane on a three-lane highway, he or she is automatically limiting his ‘outs’ in the event of an emergency. Remaining in the center lane affords the most possible options. The same holds true for being aware of your surroundings. Remaining in the center lane gives a driver the clearest and most comprehensive view of the road ahead. When you are hauling a heavy flatbed, the center lane is your friend.

The Passing Lane Truck

Contrary to popular opinion, truck drivers do not like traveling side-by-side for long distances. They know it’s dangerous. So what motivates the left lane driver in our scenario? Speed and traffic.

His truck is also likely governed by either company policy or an actual piece of equipment on his truck. Perhaps he made an unwise decision in attempting to pass the flatbed in the center lane, but once he made the lane change he was committed. Now his governed speed is making it more difficult to pass.

Let’s just say there is a difference of just 2 mph between the governed speed of the trucks. It could take a while for the passing lane truck to complete the pass, especially if the two trucks come to an incline in the road. The driver in the left lane cannot slow down either, or he will cause an even more dangerous situation due to backed up cars and angry drivers behind him.

When situations like this occur on the highways, it is always possible that they are the result of truck drivers being too aggressive or somewhat careless. But more often than not, such situations are the result of circumstances that are out of a driver’s control. Mytee Products recommends you do your best to not get frustrated. Just relax and go with it. The truckers aren’t thrilled either.