Picture a newbie driver, one who is still in awe of being in control of an 80,000-pound rig. What a feeling of power! Now picture this newbie on a typical run.
He’s got a delivery appointment in Atlanta at 11:00 a.m. and has a half-hour window either way, for the delivery. If he misses that window he’ll have to call dispatch and try to get a new appointment. It might be a day or two to get a new one. No problem, he thinks, he’s just north of Chattanooga on I-75 and it’s 7:30 a.m. and 130 miles to go. He’s in a good mood, on top of the world, and captain of his 18-wheeled ship on the highway. All of a sudden the traffic stops. There is an accident ahead and suddenly, he’s just spent 45 minutes to get five miles. He’s tried to keep a space between him and the vehicle in front of him, but people keep squeezing in front of the truck, taking away his safety margin. He gets a bit frustrated, but still has time and so he blows them off. Finally, he’s rolling again.
Now he’s rolling south on I-75 with three lanes of traffic, enjoying the countryside. He comes upon two cars side by side. The truckdriver, of course, is not allowed in the third lane, it’s restricted to four-wheelers only. So he gets in the second lane and waits for the car to pass. Three miles and they are still side by side. He starts to get impatient. Finally the car in the middle lane moves over, but the truck is now going up hill and it doesn’t have enough power to pass on the up side. The driver has to stay there until it levels off, so he can gain speed. But, when he starts to gain speed, the four-wheeler on his side speeds up and gets in front of the truck again and starts to pass another vehicle and the same thing happens again. After this happens two or three times, he really gets frustrated. He’s starting to worry about making his appointment. Now he is on the down side of the hill. He eases up on the rear of the four-wheeler to let him know he really wants around him. The motorist points to the third lane, but truckers are not allowed in that lane. The truckdriver’s frustration builds and he finds himself following too close. Another driver may get on the radio and chew him out, saying how stupid it is to follow so close. Now, one driver has called him stupid, two more say to just push him out of the way! This is how routine aggravation starts building toward road rage.
Throw in a few more frustrations, like a phone call to his wife that didn’t go well, a bad sinus headache, an equipment failure and a 500-mile detour on icy roads and life on the highway can test the coolest of heads. Veteran truckers aren’t invincible, but most handle days like this with a “tomorrow’s a new day” kind of approach. New drivers often find the constant aggravation like being in a pressure cooker. In my opinion, it’s just another reason we should be looking at mandatory entry-level driver education and to be sure that the new drivers are mature enough to handle these situations.
With more trucks on the road, more traffic, more congestion – attitude is a qualification that is more important than it’s ever been before. To put it simply, if a driver can’t handle these situations, he should be looking for other work.