When the truck driver blared his horn and turned on all his lights he was so close to my rear bumper that I thought they’d singe the back of my neck.
I was on the inside lane of a road works-infested stretch of motorway, limited to 50mph, and monitored by endless gantries of cameras. I couldn’t go any faster and couldn’t even get out of his way, as bunches of cars were occupying the lanes to my right. But this wasn’t good enough for the articulated sociopath, who apparently wanted to park in my boot. He felt that I wasn’t going fast enough.
This was particularly shocking because, generally speaking, I think heavy goods vehicle drivers are amongst the most capable and civillised of Britain’s road users. They’re professionals, and mostly it shows.
OK, it can be frustrating on a duel carriageway when one HGV pulls into your path and slowly overhauls another, but since these things are speed restricted, they don’t have much choice. Mostly, truck drivers give themselves, and everybody else more space.
This isn’t a universal rule, but the next time you’re on a motorway, watch a big lorry when its driver signals that they want to move from the inside lane. Generally the indicators will flash at least three times before the vehicle starts moving. Plenty of motorists simply flash and dash.
Truck drivers understand about space around their vehicles because these big, heavy things need momentum to keep going. It must be frustrating to be labouring up a long slope on the M6 somewhere near Nantwich, only to get stuck behind a pensioner in the world’s last surviving Datsun Cherry rattling along at 47mph, and have to change down about fifty gears, then to wait about half an hour for the road to open up to build up speed again. These people have schedules to keep and limited driving hours to keep them.
Back in the 1980s I drove a Citroen Dyne 4. This was a close relative of the famous 2CV, but instead of the throbbingly powerful 602cc air cooled twin engine usually found in the Deux Chevaux, my Dyane had a 435cc motor, which meant acceleration was even more glacial, and the need to maintain momentum was similar to the Foden and Scania articulated trucks with which my tin top hat-shaped little car generally shared the inside lane of motorways. After a bit I began to pilot the Dyne in a similar way to the trucks, which involved looking for potential obstacles ahead, having enough space fore and aft to either build up speed or slow down, and give vehicles that had similar characteristics the opportunity to pull out and keep going too.
Once I’d got into the rhythm of this I’d find myself in a slow moving caravan of trucks and coaches that often engaged in a creeping game of vehicular leapfrog, where I’d flash my feeble headlamps to let in some vast truck, and it’s driver would then do the same for me. It was all very civillised.
Generally, modern cars have a lot more urge than my little Citroen, many drivers simply aren’t aware that this sort of thing goes on, and tuckers can be the victims of dumb and dangerous driving from people in cars. How often have you seen someone realise that they’re about to miss a motorway turnoff and fling themselves into the path of hefty artic as a result? I once sat in on a lorry skid control course, and it was sobering experience seeing how long it took a big truck to stop, and the huge, terrifying forces that can unbalance a trailer if one of these giant vehicles is forced to swerve violently.
So encountering aggressive stupidity from the driver of an HGV was a disappointment, but one that, given the stresses involved with the job and the amount of traffic on the roads, remains mercifully rare.