Why Do Truck Drivers Stay In The Middle Lane?

For starters, I’ve been trucking since 1998. A lot of things have changed within the trucking industry since then. In this article, I’ll do my best to explain why truck drivers do things you may not understand, like driving side by side and staying in the middle lane.

Why Truck Drivers Stay In The Middle Lane

The easiest way to reduce the possibility of a truck accident is for the truck driver to reduce the number of high-risk maneuvers. Every lane change is a high-risk maneuver. Staying in the same lane for as long as possible is safer for the truck driver and less stressful.

A classic example of this would be how I drove through the Chicago area every time I returned from Indiana to Wisconsin.

Starting from Lake Station, Indiana interstate 94, I would move to the third lane from the left. Staying in one lane for the next 78 miles nearly eliminated the risk of a lane change accident. Since I was always traveling 3 0r 4 miles over the speed limit, I felt no need to move over.

This wasn’t just for my personal convenience. Most big trucking companies like the one I drive for have some pretty intelligent monitoring systems. These systems may include features such as:

  • Speed monitors.
  • Lane deviation monitors.
  • Radar systems that will apply the brakes if the truck is too close to the vehicle ahead.
  • Forward-facing cameras that record at a wide-angle
  • Driver-facing cameras, capable of tracking everything from distractions like a cellphone to a tired driver.
  • The ability to spot stop signs and green, yellow or red lights.

These modern safety devices communicate with trucking company safety departments regularly. A driver’s goal is to drive in a safe manner. Also, no driver wants a corrective phone call or email from their company safety department.

Why Do Truck Drivers Drive Side By Side?

You probably see this one all the time. Two semi-trucks are side by side, blocking a perfectly good passing lane. Sometimes it goes on for miles.

In most cases, trucks will run side by side on an interstate because both trucks are governed, or speed-limited to nearly the same speed. The only variance between the trucks could be the horsepower of each truck and the weight of the load. 

By the time the passing truck is nearly ahead enough to move to the right, an upcoming hill or incline causes the truck to slow down, and the process repeats itself.

Clearly, this behavior is rude and inconsiderate. It is also illegal in many states. The more practical answer would be for the truck in the right lane to just slow down a mile or 2 per hour and allow the faster truck to pass and move to the right lane.

The bottom line comes down to how truck drivers are paid. Let’s say a trucker is paid 50 cents per mile and averages 58 miles per hour for 10 hours of driving. That driver will have earned $290 dollars in milage pay for that day.

If the same driver averages 55 miles per hour for the same 10 hours, his milage pay will drop to $275 for the day. Multiply that by 5 days and the driver has lost $75 for being courteous.

In many cases, the miles missed daily could keep a driver away from home another night because he has to make those miles up to get home.

SIDENOTE: I know, drivers are legally allowed to drive 11 hours a day, but it rarely happens.

Why Do Truck Drivers Flash Their Lights When You Pass

The tradition of flashing headlights from a truck you’ve just passed goes back decades. It’s a simple way for the truck to communicate there’s now enough room for the passing vehicle to move back into the lane. It was especially important on 2 lane highways.

Truckers don’t flash their headlights for passing trucks like they once did. Although it’s still a somewhat common occurrence, it’s certainly not common practice for a large percentage of truck drivers.

Part of the reason truck drivers moved away from the practice of flashing headlights is due to the fact that many new semi-trucks come with headlights that are always on for safety reasons. Since the lights won’t flash off and on, the only other option is to flash the high-beam headlamps.

I can’t speak for everyone, but the last thing I need when checking the right side mirror is a pair of flashing high-beam lights.

Another reason the habit died away is due to the radar systems on many modern trucks. Should another vehicle pull in front of one of these radar-equipped trucks, the radar could possibly apply the brakes.

It would simply be better to have the passing truck leave a little more space before moving over.

Leaving too much space between you and the truck you just passed comes at a risk. That risk is the anxious driver behind you deciding to pass you on the right. Now we’re back to the high-risk lane change scenario we talked about at the beginning of this article.

Do Truckers Still Talk To Eachother On The CB?

I wrote about this in another article titled Do Truckers Still Use A CB Radio? Follow the link to check it out.

The short answer is yes, but not often. In fact, I spent the last 6 years of my over-the-road trucking career in trucks that didn’t even have a working CB radio.

Why Are There So Many More Trucks On The Road Today

I’m hearing this asked more often lately, and there are many parts to the answer.

Americans buy a lot of stuff. As our country’s population grows, so does the amount of inventory shipped. That’s simple math.

More Heavily Regulated Hours Of Service. The trucking industry has always been regulated as far as the hours a truck driver can put in behind the wheel. But with the new electronic logbooks required in 2018, there’s little wiggle-room to be had.

Prior to electronic compliance, many of us could sit out rush-hour driving, then drive late into the night to catch up.

Was it legal? Absolutely not. But it was certainly less stressful for everyone to have fewer trucks jamming up the beltways at rush hour.

The trucking industry as a whole is highly inefficient. Truck drivers waste countless hours every day at loading docks and warehouses all over the country. It’s not unusual for a driver to wait the better part of a day, just to have a trailer unloaded or reloaded.

Also, the industry has a high rate of deadhead miles, miles driven while pulling empty trailers. This is another issue I’ll be writing about in more detail. I’ll post a link here when that article is completed and published.