Have you ever witnessed two elephants trying to battle it out, huffing and puffing up an incline both unrelenting, both desperate to succeed?
Perhaps you have had the experience of sitting behind a Heavy Goods Vehicle trying desperately to overtake another HGV along a dual carriageway or motorway? Moreover, you have had the experience of being in this situation yourself as a professional HGV driver.
Elephant racing is a term that has recently been used to describe slow overtaking manoeuvres by lorries limited to 56mph either on a flat road or incline.
There have been multiple trials and consultations on various sections of the UK’s road network, limiting HGV vehicles from overtaking in the 2nd lane. A daytime ban was implemented between junctions 10 and 11 of the northbound M42 near Tamworth. Following an 18-month trial and consultation, it was deemed that lorries weighing more than seven-and-half tonnes would not be able to use the outside lane between 7am and 7pm. There was a ban implemented in an effort to It to reduce congestion and the risk of accidents caused by slow-moving vehicles. There have been many trials and consultations aimed at creating a permanent ban on the M11 between junctions 8 and 9 to stop HGV’s overtaking.
Whilst motor drivers sit behind these vehicles and find it frustrating, it is equally frustrating for the overtaking driver also. Most of these vehicles have speed restrictions set at 56mph. A driver may begin their overtaking manoeuvre on a flat road, but whilst trying to get past the vehicle, he encounters a small incline. Owing to the weight of the vehicle and or the load combined this may prove difficult for the overtaking vehicle, which is where the stalemate begins. Either the overtaking vehicle has to relent and move back over, or continue on in vain till they are able to complete their manoeuvre.
Highways England identify hotspots that cause frustration and congestion and are working with the relevant industrial bodies to implement change on these roads to ensure less congestion and safety. There is no law restricting “elephant races” but The Highway Code has a ban for any vehicle towing a trailer or vehicles above 7.5tonnes from using the right-hand lane on motorways.
There seems to be no one size fits all solution to this problem, but perhaps a little patience and driver etiquette could be exercised to help ease the pain all around.