Trucks at Work

Drafting: Are you kidding me?

So ... in the space of a week, I get a press release from the American Trucking Association warning car drivers not to 'draft' behind tractor-trailers, followed by a 'Mythbusters' episode on the Discovery Channel delving into the practicality of drafting behind a big rig to improve a car's fuel economy.

After wading through all of of this, my initial thought on the whole topic remains unchanged: are you KIDDING me? Are we, the motoring public, REALLY this dumb to engage in something this dangerous to save gasoline?

Federal safety regulations say a car traveling 60 mph needs at least 216 feet for the braking system to achieve a complete stop -- which ain't possible when you are 10 feet off the rear bumper of a big rig. But WHY is this even happening? What happened to driving 55 mph, changing your oil every 3,000 miles, keeping your tires properly inflated, etc., to get the best fuel economy possible? I mean, basic maintenance and upkeep gives you more fuel economy savings at MUCH less risk to life and limb for crying out loud! This isn't rocket science, people.

Yet this kind of thing happens a lot, among motorists as well as truckers, when the price of fuel spikes. You start reading all kinds of hogwash on the Internet about special fuel or oil additives and driving practices that supposedly give you these huge fuel economy improvements -- and people swallow these whoppers without a second thought!

It's like the Nigerian banking scam that's been bilking folks for years: a poorly written letter or email promising millions of dollars in fast cash if you JUST give them your social security number, bank account numbers, passwords, etc. You don't believe a word of it if someone tells you this face to face -- so why does reading it on the Internet suddenly make it true?

Now back to drafting: yes, you can improve fuel economy doing it, but not a lot -- in fact, nowhere NEAR worth the risks you run to achieve it. And those fuel economy beneifts aren't consistent, either -- nothing like what you'd get from driving 60 mph with the cruise control on and just making sure your car is maintained properly. If you want to drive fast and crazy, go to a race track and do it -- not on the highway, where you are putting people's lives at risk with such foolishness.