The American Trucking Associations is advising fleet safety directors to warn their drivers and owner-operators about the resurgence of a dangerous practice among automobile drivers known as “drafting,” which involves driving a car very close behind a truck to use the reduction of wind resistance to reduce the amount of energy needed to propel the auto, in an effort to increase fuel economy.
“Few driving behaviors are more dangerous on our highways than drafting,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Drivers who practice this unsafe behavior are often out of the field of vision of the truck driver and are unable to see around the truck. Drafting is unsafe, illegal and significantly increases the chances of injury and death. This practice compromises the safety of everyone on the nation’s highways and must not be considered a viable means of extending fuel mileage.”
ATA recently learned that drafting is being promoted by two websites dedicated to “hypermiling,” and several recent news articles have described the hazardous fad. Hypermiling is an invented term for achieving high fuel economy by several means, including dangerous ones such as driving partly on the right shoulder, over-inflating tires, coasting with the ignition off and drafting behind tractor-trailers. ATA is working to educate the public on safe following distances through its Share the Road safety program.
“While drivers everywhere are feeling pinched by the high price of gasoline, safety should never come at the expense of fuel efficiency,” says John Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “FMCSA works closely with states and industry to educate consumers about large truck safety, and to target passenger vehicles that drive dangerously around commercial vehicles – including extreme tailgating, called drafting. Hypermilers, and others who embrace such reckless tactics, must consider their safety and those with whom they share the road, especially if a truck had to brake suddenly. These highly unsafe driving behaviors must be avoided by all motorists.”
“There are far too many crashes involving cars and trucks where following too closely is identified as a contributing factor,” says Stephen Campbell, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. “If motorists are drafting, the truck driver more than likely cannot 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.”