Large truck overtaking small truck on highway

The Truth About 18-Wheeler Elephant Races

Have you ever been on the highway and see two trucks, side-by-side, blocking both lanes and holding up traffic behind them? This is called an elephant race, and while it’s a frustrating situation, all drivers need to understand why they happen.

Governing Trucks

Elephant races most commonly occur because of minor speed differences in commercial trucks. Many trucking companies use a device called a governor to limit their fleet’s maximum speed. This is meant to prevent speeding altogether, which can be especially dangerous for tractor-trailers because it makes handling more difficult and it causes significantly more dangerous crashes.

The problem with governors is that they’re not standardized at the federal level, and they don’t account for minor differences in truck make and model. For example, Truck A might cap out at 60mph, but Truck B might be governed at 62 MPH. When Truck B approaches Truck A, the driver needs to make a choice. They can either slow down, decrease their momentum, use more fuel, and increase their transit time, or attempt to pass the other truck.

If the faster truck decides to pass, they’ll do so slowly because they only travel slightly faster than the other vehicle. This leads to the infamous elephant race. While these incidents are frustrating, most don’t realize that they can actually be dangerous if drivers don’t stay calm and use proper passing techniques.

The Problem with Elephant Races

The main problem is that the faster truck needs to merge back into the travel lane. To do this safely, they need to get far enough ahead that they have a few car lengths of space to merge into. Merging too early could cause their trailer to impact against the slower truck. Which means elephant races aren’t over until both trucks are back in the travel lane.

The other issue is that frustrated drivers, unaware of why this is happening, may try to weave between the two trucks without accounting for the no-zone. If a truck driver can’t see a driver along side them, they may think it’s safe to merge, which could either force a driver off the road or cause a catastrophic accident.

If you or someone you love suffered severe injuries in an 18-wheeler crash, you might have a case. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Amarillo 18-wheeler accident attorney from Wood Law Firm LLP, please send us an email or call (806) 304-0447.