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No doubt about it a big truck pushes lots of air and creates a nice place to drive and get an assist. Having been a bicycle racer for many years drafting has been something that is second nature to me on the bike and the rules of engagement I know well. On the road true drafting, getting close enough to really get in the sweet spot is dangerous and illegal but I suspect some of us do it now and again anyway, especaially when you're half way home and under the average you want.....

So, my question is what do you consider proper etiquette. I do things like flash the high beams to invite a truck back into my lane. I follow close, five to eight car lenghts and once in a while move over enough to let the driver see me and let him know I'm not right on his butt. Just a couple of examples. What do you all do?

AJ
 

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When I travel on a long trip, finding a trucker doing around the same speed as I am wanting to travel is just about the best.

Here's what I do. I always try to make sure that the trucker knows that I'm behind him and have no intention of trying to pass him. I usually do this by staying for a while on the left and behind him, then move over and stay there. When the trucker signals to move over a lane, normally I will try to move over first and "block" the lane so that he has no trouble making the change he intended. I use my signals and high beams as indicators to try to make sure the trucker is aware of me and that I'm working with him, not against him. I will snug up fairly close from time to time, but usually maintain a fairly safe distance (although honestly, I have to believe there aren't too many semi's that can brake as hard as any road car, especially if they're loaded down) and can still feel the effect of the truck parting the wind. In the Insight, I've found you can really feel the back of the wind envelope where the air is coming back together behind the truck and I just try and stay ahead of that spot.

Most of the time, the truckers I've drafted have had no problem with me tagging on to their bumper. As long as you don't impede their progress I think most are pretty cool. In fact, several times in the past when I've either gotten off the Interstate or gone on past as they've exited, they've either waved or given me a thumbs up. By kinda being a blocker for them I figure I'm helping them a little as they help me to sip the gas for miles on end.

Its amazing how being behind a truck can stretch the mileage. And, the trucks seem to accelerate and deccelerate up and down hills in a manner that the Insight likes too. Going up hills we slow some, and going down speed up, almost in lock-step with one another. I've had trucks virtually tow me up hills I'd have to be using electric assistance on if I were by myself without even tipping into the gas pedal.

Here's another "trick" I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else has tryed/experienced. When just behind and to the left or right lane from a truck, if you get just a little behind their bumper, I swear you can "surf" on the wake wave coming off the rear of the truck. You can feel the Insight being pushed along on this wave of air. Not nearly as safe as following behind, and this manuever I'd imagine truckers would not like all that much, but its amazing how much this push can be felt and used as an advantage. I don't do it very much at all, but once in a while, just for fun, I can't help myself!! :p
 

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I remember many times standing by a roadside when an 18-wheeler whipped by. The shock wave hit and the wind continued for several seconds.

I then keep in mind that the classic defined safe following distance is determined by noting a landmark (like the beginning of a stripe, a pothole or whatever) as the rear of the vehicle in front of you passes over or near it, then count two seconds before the front of your vehicle passes it.

Lastly, I consider that the wind continued for longer than two seconds, so I figure I get a healthy benefit from drafting at a safe distance. Likely, I get less of a benefit than I would if I followed closer, but you know, if all those 18 wheels lock up with more than a ton on each one of them, there's a really good chance that truck can stop faster than I can. I don't want to find my car stuffed, (Limbo lower, now...), under that rear bumper. That would just ruin my entire day.

A trucker I caught a ride with once told me that he was driving a truck that hit a bump on an Interstate highway and he had done a poor job of draping his brake hoses between the trailer and the tractor. The hoses snagged in his drive shaft and ripped loose. This caused his brakes to all lock. No brake lights. Just lots of blue smoke coming off all the tires. He was on for the ride, since tires are just as happy sliding sideways as forward if they are locked.

You can't always count on things making sense or behaving predictably. I wouldn't advise following anybody too closely.
 

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Have you ever been driving down the road and noticed a big piece of tire in your lane :?: If so you probably didn't think about what would happen if you had been following the big truck when his tread flew off at 70+mph :!:

If your going to draft then try and stay away from the dirty/old truck. Those trucks use recapped tires. Recapped tires simply ae worn out tire that have new tread wrapped around them.
 

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No doubt that drafting can have a major impact on mileage. My experience has been a +5MPG difference. It's also nice having such a large object in front of you. If there's trouble ahead, the truck is going to plow right through....

I tend to keep about 3 car lengths behind.
 

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cakley said:
Have you ever been driving down the road and noticed a big piece of tire in your lane :?: If so you probably didn't think about what would happen if you had been following the big truck when his tread flew off at 70+mph :!:
I once watched an approaching truck lose a right rear tire. The tire exploded and at least 2/3 of the tread flew up in an arc well above and over the truck, outpacing the truck, landing in front of the truck, off to the side, diagonally away from the corner from which it flew.

That was a LOT of energy release. There was a lot of smoke and debris. The closer an observer is to that, the larger a target you are for the debris.

A lot of trucks use retreads. For all the miles they drive, they replace tires often, and the cost is substantial. Retreads are much cheaper.

Also, my office mate was recently following behind a truck on interstate (his wife was driving; they were in a VW Passat). Because of the truck in front of them, they didn't see the large chunk of metal the trucker straddled. It looked like a mangled foot from the folding legs 40' trailers use to hold the front up when the front of the truck drives away. They didn't have time to respond, so they ran over it. Imagine a twisted pyramid about 1' tall and wide.

It demolished their transmission and bent the drive shaft connecting the front and back drive of the car. So far, it's more than $5,000 in damage. They wish they had been following a little farther back now.

You just have to balance the risk factors. Follow close and dependably save 5mpg, while adding the unnecessary risk of an unlikely event that could kill or maime you and your passenger and destroy this really cool car you like so much. It's your choice. Make it well.
 

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When I was racing bikes we used to draft about 1 to 2 inches apart. We do that because the sweet spot is small, because what we are drafting is small. The risk of drafting that close is great, but so are the benefits. The truck you are drafting in your Insight is much larger than you are, so the sweet spot is much larger. I find 3 to 4 car lengths to be a good spot, but just like in bike racing, if there is going to be trouble, it's going to be the guy in the back that gets it.
Louis
 

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Draft dodging...

I agree with Hambone and Will M, most truckers do NOT mind a reasonable drafting distance (I always ask if I can "sandbag" them for a while on the CB, and they always agree) while you provide wingman services for their passing and lane changing. They are also almost universally curious about our little silver car, what kind of mileage, what speeds can it attain... you know the questions. Like Will M, I have found that two seconds behind is about ideal (good following distance, moderate air turbulence, and if an "alligator" [loose tread coming off or lying in the roadway] pops up in your way, you have some chance of missing it)... :roll: Too close in and they don't feel comfortable, too far back and you get no benefit.

That brake-lock deal Will M mentioned is scary. I sure wouldn't want to be behind a semi when he drops anchor like that... :shock:
 
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