I recently switched careers, and I'm now working as an over-the-road trucker. So far, it's been an intense learning experience. Here are a few observations I'd like to pass along.
I'm driving a vehicle that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. When that thing is moving at 65mph, it can't stop on a dime. Physics doesn't work that way.
If you want to go faster than me, by all means pass me. No, I want you to. I'm travelling as quickly as conditions and the vehicle will allow. If you do choose to pass, please make sure to leave some space before cutting in front of me. See the previous paragraph for an explanation. Your best bet is to wait until you can see the marker lights above my windshield in your mirrors.
If I can, I'll let you merge in. Sometimes I can't. I'm not going to slam on my brakes to do so. On-ramps are called acceleration lanes for a reason. Either get in front of me or fall in behind.
Don't tailgate me. It won't make me go faster. In fact, driving on my butt leaves you in one of my main blind spots. That little underrun bumper with the reflective tape? It's not very sturdy. If I have to make a sudden stop, there's a good chance your vehicle is going under mine.
Stop texting while you try to drive. Yes you are. My seat rides much higher than yours. Holding the phone in your lap doesn't hide it.
Did I mention that trucks are heavy? I think I did. Sometimes we have trouble in the mountains. Gravity slows us down on upgrades. That's why we're in the right lane with our hazard lights flashing in places like Monteagle. We might lose speed. What we can't do is go faster. Take the left lane and pass.
Speaking of the flashers, they have a purpose. If we turn them on, it's because there's a hazard present. Pay attention. Either we have a problem with the vehicle, or we've spotted a dangerous condition ahead.
So, who drives well and who doesn't? Tennessee has generally courteous drivers. The same goes for Kentucky, though they could be a bit better about using turn signals.
Folks in Missouri are good as well. When there aren't traffic conditions, their overhead signs are programmed to read things like, "leave tailgating at the football game" and "the steering wheel is not a hands-free device." Nice. Sorry about East St. Louis, though.
Iowa…I like you guys. I wish the roads weren't so craggy, but I understand the havoc constant ice wreaks on pavement. Same for Wisconsin, though I wish they'd put reflectors on the white lines. Those roads get dark at night.
Ohio drivers are OK. That is, until you get into Cincinnati. Seriously, two cars cannot occupy the same space at the same time. I'd also appreciate you not attempting to prove that statement wrong directly in front of me. The state has the nicest rest stops I've ever seen, though. The entire east coast could learn from them.
Chicago is a festival of traffic suck, made even worse by aggressive and distracted drivers. The rest of Illinois is pretty good.
New Yorkers seem to have an odd conditioned reflex. When their left foot hits the brake, their right hand hits the horn. I'm pretty sure they don't even realize they're doing it. Perhaps they'd do it less if they weren't so obsessed with seeing just how close they can get to the driver in front of them.
The worst I've encountered? Georgia. Seriously. Screw Georgia drivers. No lane discipline, a complete unwillingness to use turn signals, and utter refusal to pay attention to surroundings. I'm from Georgia, and I can honestly say it's the most dangerous place I've driven. Note to the Camry driver who almost hit at least eleven cars in a two-mile stretch: you can't eat a bowl of soup and drive at 80mph the same time.
With that out of the way, the open road is something I've always loved. It's nice to have a job that lets me enjoy it.