Why do lorries play this slow, slow overtaking game?
- Credit: PA
David Clayton is baffled by the nation's lorry drivers and their slow overtaking fixation....
Something has puzzled me for years and I guess we're only just beginning to experience this phenomenon now we have 'grown-up' dual carriageway roads in Norfolk. Having just driven up and down a long section of the A1, why is it slow-moving lorries try to overtake slow-moving lorries, slowly?
I guess you've experienced the moment when you're sailing past a convoy of large lorries, articulated vehicles and the like, thankful you're blessed with the luxury of a dual carriageway, so you can get on with your journey, when one of the lorries indicates to pull out. You have a choice – ignore and speed on, or if like me you have a conscience, slow down and allow the lumbering giant your bit of the outside lane. It's all because, to this day, my late Father's wise words have stayed with me, 'They're the knights of the road,' he'd say with due reverence, so I, of course flash my lights and let the lorry driver out in front of me. As my passengers sigh, I 'hold station' as the articulated monster lunges forward in an attempt an overtake the other articulated monster.
I remain patient and considerate – honestly - while traffic accumulates behind me and said lorry strains whatever the mechanical equivalent of sinews are to achieve a speed differential. I'm guessing, nay hoping, there's a camaraderie between the 'knights of the road' which will make this manoeuvre as painless as possible. The way my Father portrayed it, I always regarded them as a band of heroic brothers keeping watch on us from their lofty driving seats as well as unofficially patrolling the highways and byways. Whatever the weather and distance, these brave men and women soldier on, night and day, delivering everything we need to live our lives, so the last thing I'm advocating is to begrudge them their necessary space on the roads. We simply couldn't do without them. So, here's the point, why doesn't the lorry being overtaken drop a few mph to give the overtaker a fighting chance? It turns into a tortuous experience for the straining lorry not to mention the huge convoy of impatient cars stacking-up behind. How often have you seen the overtaking lorry run out of puff and abandon the pass?
It turns out (I have looked around a few motorist forums on-line) that the lorry drivers are as much troubled by this, as you and me. Their speeds are regulated or capped, if you like, and should their collective limiters be set just ever so slightly differently or slower, the feeble overtake is not only necessary but sometimes vital to make a contracted delivery time, or to beat a shift deadline. Then there's gravity. It might be easier for an empty lorry to gain on a full one uphill but then the incline changes to a downward one and the full lorry gets a helping hand. Apparently dropping a few mph takes many minutes to recover and everyone is trying to meet a deadline. So apart from a headlight flash to let the overtaker know he's cleared the length of his vehicle to return to the inside lane, that's as much as lorry drivers appear to do for each other.
So, what's the solution? Until railway sidings sit beside all our major retailers' outlets we're stuck with the status quo on our roads and come to think of it we need space on our rail tracks to transport ever more passengers, so scrap that idea. Personally, I'd trust the 'knights of the road' to judge the best speed at which to travel based on the road conditions and what they're hauling.
The other solution – three lanes everywhere which would at least give the white vans chance to get past the lot of us!
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