Drafting behind big trucks isn’t the answer to fuel mileage woes

| 8/13/2008

The phrase, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you,” is a common sight on the rear doors of many tractor-trailers traveling on America’s highways – maybe even yours.

As both truckers and motorists strive to increase their fuel mileage as both fuel prices hover above the $4 mark, a tip recently published in Woman’s World Magazine actuallyencouraged its readers to drive behind a tractor-trailer to save “about 10 percent on gas.”

The story caught the eye of one OOIDA member, Lori Tucker, who called Woman’s World. When staff at the mainstream magazine told her they “covered everything with their experts and were standing behind the article,” Tucker called OOIDA’s satellite radio show Land Line Now.

Gabrielle Lichterman, the author of the Woman’s World article,told Land Line Magazine on Tuesday, Aug. 12, that anyone who passes a driver’s test should know the rules of the road on maintaining a safe distance behind semis.

“We assume that when drivers get their licenses that they’ve passed that question, that they’ve answered that question right on their driver’s exam,” Lichterman said. “I think everybody knows what a safe distance behind a semi is. Nobody wants to get too close to any car or truck when you’re driving. … I respect that you are foreseeing whatever problems could occur.”

She said the information she used in the article was from the co-founder of www.gasbuddy.com, Jason Toews. In an e-mail to Land Line Now, Toews wrotethat he “vehemently expressed to the reporter (Lichterman) that one should not do that (draft) because of the dangerous nature of drafting.”

However, that warning was not included in the tip in Woman’s World, which was titled “Follow that semi.” The tip stated: “Driving behind a tractor-trailer on highways can save you about 10 percent on gas, says Jason Toews, co-founder of www.gasbuddy.com. ‘The reason? It reduces wind resistance, so you use less fuel.’ ”

Lichterman told Land Line Magazine that Toews recommended if you’ve got a choice between riding behind a Toyota or a semi at a safe distance, of course you pick the semi.

“We ask our experts, and our experts provide the guidance, and I think that it was worded in the magazine in a way that definitely does not encourage any illegal activity.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer