A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

The same old Interstate Blues

Written March 16th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

On I-5 in southern Oregon on a recent afternoon.

Without trucks we wouldn’t eat, or have many of the things we do have. I know that. Truckers are making a living. I know that too. But do they really have to pass each other all that much, holding up the rest of the traffic on I-5?

Last year the Oregon Transportation Commission raised the speed limit for trucks to 60 mph on most segments of the interstates. The goal was to allow trucks to drive at a speed a little closer to that of most other vehicles. Presumably that would eliminate at least some of the need to pass other vehicles.

But if there has been any effect, I have not noticed it. Now, just as before, trucks often pull into the left lane just as a column of faster traffic is coming up from behind. And because the trucks generally don’t go a whole lot faster than whatever they are passing, the left lane stays blocked for longer than one might wish.

Sometimes this makes other drivers mad enough to do something dangerous and stupid. A week ago, driving north toward Albany, I was in a long line of vehicles stuck in the left lane, Suddenly, far ahead, a cloud of dust. His patience evidently exhausted, somebody had veered on to the left shoulder to try to get around what was slowing everybody down.

The smart answer is obvious: Relax. Take it easy. Think of something pleasant and keep a safe distance from the guy in front.

Still, on busy two-lane freeway segments, like from Eugene to Albany on most afternoons, we could use some new rules. One is a ban on slow-moving trucks passing anyone and blocking the left lane. The other is a minimum speed limit. If you can’t go at least a steady 65, and preferably a bit faster, get off the freeway and use another road. (hh)

Heading north toward Albany earlier this month. Far ahead, the fast lane is blocked by trucks.


10 responses to “The same old Interstate Blues”

  1. Brad says:

    The days of humans driving trucks are numbered. You’ll start seeing automated trucks and cars on the road in 5 years easily. Tons of them in 10. In 20 years it’ll be weird to see humans driving things. Just wait it out and the problem will go away.

  2. Don says:

    Lot of other states the speed limit for trucks is the same as autos. If I remember correctly in South Dakota it is 80 for both, but there is less traffic.

  3. Al Nyman says:

    Many states do not have a separate truck speed which makes traffic flow more smoothly. As somebody who spends a great amount of time on I-5, I can tell you that increasing the truck speed has helped the flow of traffic and trucks are passing at 65 or thereabouts but the real problem is Oregon has an incredible number of drivers who will not drive the speed limit on the freeway so many times trucks are passing slow cars. As my wife will not fly, we have driven all over the US and I swear Oregon has the slowest drivers in the universe. Oregon also has the lowest speed limits on the West Coast which accentuates the problem as it encourages slow drivers.

    • Larry Martell says:

      In every single instance I’ve seen this happen it was a truck trying to pass another truck and it took a long time for the truck to pass.

    • Jon says:

      Al, it’s a speed LIMIT. Not a speed requirement.

      • Tom says:

        Ron, ‘Not a speed requirement’……..and thus the problem. I firmly agree, if you cannot enter, exit, or drive at 65+mph, you’re unsafe and do not belong on a freeway. People believe entering a freeway with their brake is somehow ideal and safe. Negotiating freeways at you own leisurely pace is not safe as this dictates action by others to go around these people, and more lane changes adds to a higher potential for accidents all while slowing traffic and furthering backups. If it were up to me, I would post signs next to the on-ramps reading: GO PEOPLE, YOU ARE NOT PULLING INTO A GROCERY STORE PARKING LOT, YOU’RE GETTING ONTO THE INTERSTATE….DO IT RIGHT!!! This state needs to bump the speeds to 75mph leaving urban areas to flush the congestion out.

  4. James Engel says:

    Hint.. Between Albany & Eugene…TAKE 99E/W..!! Gracious, I want a rule for this, I want a rule for that. I want a rule for all of that!

    • Tom says:

      Jim, I don’t think taking a two-lane highway with a slower speed requirement constitutes creating progressive traffic flow on the freeways. Unfortunately, some people need to be herded like cattle because they fail to understand their insecure driving habits are more dangerous than others.

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    I can easily see the trucks being more “automated” to drive sans drivers. It will happen eventually — and probably before fully autonomous vehicles — I hope.

  6. centrist says:

    The 60 limit just legitimized the speed that most trucks ran. Experience where the truck limit is higher — most continue to run 60. Higher speed sucks more fuel and ultimately causes more repair downtime.
    Oregon slow speed is likely learned behavior. On a jaunt between Ohio and Oregon, saw only one police vehicle before the Oregon border. Saw 5 in the first 20 miles in our fair state.


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