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Editorial Comment: Aggressive drivers resort to drafting

Finally, four-wheelers are paying attention to fuel-efficient driving techniques. But in doing so they're putting other road users at risk.


James Menzies

James Menzies


Finally, four-wheelers are paying attention to fuel-efficient driving techniques. But in doing so they’re putting other road users at risk.

According to numerous news reports, the act of stretching every drop of fuel is catching on among motorists. Drivers, mostly piloting hybrid vehicles, are engaging in a new phenomenon known as ‘hypermiling’ – the act of stretching fuel economy as far as possible by adopting fuel-efficient driving techniques.

Professional drivers have been doing it for years: Anticipating traffic flows, coasting to a stop rather than needlessly braking, accelerating smoothly from stops and utilizing progressive shifting techniques and cruise control.

But now that car drivers are trying to get in on the act, there are – not surprisingly – some unintended consequences which are putting all drivers at risk.

The most disconcerting for truckers is the act of ‘drafting.’ Web sites on hypermiling have popped up, describing how motorists can improve their fuel mileage by hugging the rear bumper of tractor-trailers, slingshotting past when required much like Jeff Gordon would do at a Talladega super-speedway.

Those same sites advise hybrid drivers to shut down their engine while coasting to a stop in traffic. Never mind the fact you will lose power steering and other safety functions when doing so. And some ‘hypermilers’ also suggest overinflating tires or driving partly on the right-hand shoulder of the highway.

If you’ve noticed a spike in dangerous driving activity on our roadways, you may not be imagining things.

The increasingly common dangerous driving tactics being employed to save a few litres of fuel are receiving the attention of trucking associations and enforcement agencies.

The American Trucking Asso-ciations’ has appealed to Web site owners to remove instructions on drafting (good luck with that).

And Stephen Campbell, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has announced, “There are far too many crashes involving cars and trucks where following too closely is identified as a contributing factor. If motorists are ‘drafting’ the truck driver more than likely can not see them. Enforcement officers are on the lookout for, and will take action on, these unsafe and dangerous driving behaviors by four-wheelers around trucks.”

Here’s hoping our local law enforcement agencies here in Canada will also be on the lookout for offenders.

Truck driving is an inherently dangerous job thanks in large part to the bad driving habits of four-wheelers. Now that a new breed of unsafe driver has emerged in the pursuit of fuel mileage, professional drivers have one more thing to worry about while out on the road. While drivers of all stripes who employ fuel-efficient driving techniques should be applauded, there’s no need to jeopardize safety while doing so.

As professional drivers have proven over time, you can adjust your driving style to save fuel without risking your life and the lives of those around you.

– James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at jmenzies@trucknews.com.


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