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Jon Osburn and OOIDA’s tour truck, the Spirit of the American Trucker, are at the Petro truck stop in Rochelle, Ill. That’s located at Exit 99 off Interstate 39. Stop in, say hi to Jon, and join OOIDA for a $20 discount through July. See the full Spirit Schedule. Air date: July 17, 2018.

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The Great Wall of Trucks

Many years ago, I asked someone here at OOIDA, a trucker who came to work here, what the problem was with left-lane restrictions on trucks.

Those restrictions typically happen on interstates or other highways with three lanes in each direction, and forbid the truck to use the far left lane.

At the time, the trucker I spoke with gave me a number of reasons that a left-lane restriction doesn’t work. They all made sense, and I could go into all of them, but it came to my mind this week for one reason in particular.

He said that many truckers will not sit in the far right lane because of entering and exiting cars. Keeping out of that process means fewer interactions with cars engaged in one of the more risky – however necessary – maneuvers cars undertake.

That’s especially true when you realize just how few of the four-wheelers out there have any idea how to properly merge, or even who has the right-of-way in that situation.

Because the left-lane restrictions keep them out of that lane, he told me truckers were likely to stay in the middle of the three lanes, eventually creating an “impenetrable wall of trucks.”

As you can tell, that turn of phrase stuck with me. As an alternate name, I am also fond of “Great Wall of Trucks” or perhaps “Patton’s Third Army.”

I have seen things nearly meeting that ominous description, but never something that was a perfect match.

That is, until the other day.

There it was – bumper to bumper to bumper – a line of at least 10 trucks in a row, all in the center of the three eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 coming out of Kansas City. Boom! The impenetrable wall, made real.

Cars in the left lane who wanted to exit were pretty much trapped. Or at least they perceived themselves to be.

Me? I used this cool new device they’ve installed in cars that allows for vehicle to vehicle communication regarding intended direction. I hear they call this newfangled device a “turn signal.”

Perhaps the other cars avoided using it for fear it was some kind of witchcraft. Personally, I’m a science guy, so I had no problem clicking that sucker right on – at which point, one of the very polite trucks let me in front of him, from whence I was able to maneuver to the right lane, and eventually, my intended exit.

At this point, I’m headed for a pleasant day at work, while the other drivers are apparently considering whether to tie their turn signals to a stake and light ’em up.

Everything we do, everything our government does on our behalf, no matter how well intentioned, has consequences. The rule has no exceptions.

This one was predictable, and predicted, long ago. Yet out of some reactionary instinct or false belief in its safety benefits, our lawmakers in the Show-Me State put it into effect.

As more and more trucks hit the road over time – an inevitability – this will become a bigger and bigger problem.

Will we face some unintended consequence if we reverse this rule? Perhaps. Some left-lane lead foot in a car may be late for their movie, for one.

But I tend to think that no matter the consequence, the increase in safety, the easier flow of traffic, and other effects to the positive side are more than worth it.


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