Monday, March 19, 2007

Traveling (legally) at 75 mph and the rogue trucker

My wife and I took a vacation last week in the southwestern part of the US. We flew to Las Vegas, rented a car there, and drove through Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and back in a clockwise loop. This took us through various national parks, monuments, and historic sites such as Zion National Park, Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Chaco Canyon.

We also stopped at Meteor Crater and the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Most of our travels were on 2-lane highways, including historic Route 66 in Arizona, but we also used Interstates 15 and 40 in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Both roads mostly have 75 mph speed limits, applicable to all vehicles.

It was refreshing in a way to see the "natural order" restored, where cars travel faster than tractor-trailers, even while we maintained the speed limit. This was like the pre-55 mph days, when cars routinely passed trucks and not the other way around. It was so pleasant NOT to have truckers running up on your bumper before reluctantly moving over to pass.

In this same vein, it is interesting that the American Trucking Associations, along with several large trucking companies, have actually petitioned the federal government to mandate a top built-in speed of 68 mph for all newly manufactured tractors. Safety groups are quite pleased with this, saying that the "80-mph truck has no place on our highways." Of note, Texas recently raised the daytime speed limit to 80 mph for ALL vehicles on large portions of I-10 and I-20 in the western part of the state.

The independent truckers on the other hand are vehemently opposed to the petition, because for them, time saved means more money earned, safety notwithstanding. I apparently encountered one such trucker on westbound I-40 on the approach to Flagstaff. I had passed one tractor-trailer and was still in the left lane gaining on a second one, when literally out of the blue, this "rogue trucker" began to loom in my rear view mirror.

Well, 75 mph is fast enough for me, thank you very much, so I still had time to duck into the right lane behind the truck I was originally going to pass. The rogue whooshed by at maybe 90 mph and was soon gone.

That the government should accept the petition is a no-brainer to me.

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