A new rule by Arizona’s Department of Transportation is creating a hissy-fit among truck drivers, and could prove frightening for RVers. A 20-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande is, at present, only two lanes in each direction. ADOT—the state’s highway agency—says too many accidents are caused by heavy trucks on that roadway. Until the stretch can be widened, trucks are now required to stay in the right lane only.
Peterbilt inches behind your rear bumper
How will RVers be affected? While the new regulations technically apply to commercial truck traffic, RVers may see some frightening fallout. Much—if not all—of this stretch of the interstate is a posted 75-mile-per-hour limit. We know several RVers who simply don’t feel safe towing their rigs at that speed. They habitually use the right lane while driving slower than the posted limit. Imagine being “in the lead” position in the right lane at 55 mph. Looking in your rearview mirror may present the ominous specter of a Peterbilt inches behind your rear bumper.
Truckers have expressed a similar concern. We spoke with Tony Bradley, president of the Arizona Trucking Association (ATA), the industry group representing truckers in Arizona. About ADOT’s new right-lane-only restrictions idea, Bradley “politely” described it as, “Not the wisest policy.” Bradley observed that ADOT took the position because, as it says, “heavy vehicles were involved in about 20 percent of crashes.” The truckers’ association responds, why doesn’t ADOT go after the cause of the other 80% of crashes? “The problem,” says Bradley, “is the folks going 95 and zipping in and out of traffic.”
“Law of unintended consequences”
Bradley worries the end result of ADOT’s restrictions will be the playout of the “law of unintended consequences.” The trucking association envisions not only impeded commerce, but “a wall of trucks following slower traffic.” Looking for compromise, the ATA asked the state to open up portions of the 20-mile corridor, allowing trucks to pass slower moving rigs. ADOT gave the idea a thumbs down.
We asked ADOT about the issue. We got what truckers will probably view as anything but a useful response. “Trucks are restricted to the right lane only on a 20-mile section of I-10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande. The restriction is in place between mileposts 164-183, where the speed limit is 75 mph. Trucks can pass on the remainder of the highway between Phoenix and Tucson.”
Given that the men and women behind the wheels of those 18-wheelers are likely being paid by the mile, and given that they probably have a dispatcher hounding them, a restriction on “only on a 20-mile section” is cold comfort. Given that set of circumstances, the likelihood of being an RVer tailgated by a column of big rigs seems pretty high.
“RVers do have the right to travel in the right lane”
We asked ADOT for its advice to RVers who may find themselves in an uncomfortable situation on the interstate. “RVers do have a right to travel in the right lane, and we suggest drivers leave plenty of extra space between vehicles as a safety precaution.” Handy advice! We may be able to “leave plenty of extra space” ahead of us. Keeping the rear end in that same position is not up to us. Aside from jamming the “pedal to the metal” and hoping for the best, what’s to do? The only other options appear to be looking for an alternative route.
From the west, RVers could take SR 85 south near Buckeye, then I-8 west to meet back up with the 10 below Casa Grande. From the east side of Phoenix, it’s a bit trickier. You could take the Loop 202 to SR 87 below Chandler, and follow it and SR 287 south to the 10 at Picacho. Or go ahead and take the 10 all the way. Just say your prayers and make sure your insurance is fully paid.
ATA’s Tony Bradley has another wry view of the matter. Arizona’s legislature has appropriated $400 million to make that 20-mile stretch three lanes in each direction. The project to widen will begin sometime in 2023. “In a year or so,” Bradley says, “everyone will be sharing one lane on that corridor.” That is, until the project is completed. Right lane only? One for all, and all for one.